November 12, 1294
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) -- Twenty-nine student protesters scaled an 8-foot fence wrapped in barbed wire to enter the U.S. Embassy grounds Saturday on the third anniversary of a massacre in East Timor.
The protesters said they want President Clinton to pressure Indonesia on the East Timor issue during his upcoming visit for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit that begins Tuesday.
The incident angered Indonesia's government, which hoped the summit would allow the country to shake off its poor human rights image. "It was obviously designed to embarrass us," said Foreign Minister Ali Alatas.
Secretary of State Warren Christopher, in town for ministerial meetings before the summit, said the issue of East Timor would be raised during bilateral talks with Indonesia.
"We understand the concern of these students," he said.
Indonesia annexed East Timor in 1976 after intervening in a civil war that followed Portugal's withdrawal from its former colony. Human rights groups have accused Indonesia of widespread abuses in East Timor since then.
The United Nations never recognized the annexation. The United States has, but protested that East Timor's people have not conducted "a valid act of self-determination."
Saturday is the third anniversary of the day that soldiers killed scores of unarmed civilians at Santa Cruz cemetery in the East Timor town of Dili. A government inquiry said 50 people were killed, 91 were injured and 57 unaccounted for. Independent sources say more than 200 died.
At the U.S. embassy, the protesters sat cross-legged facing Indonesian riot police armed with batons and bamboo canes on the other side of the fence. They refused to budge, despite a government promise that they would not be arrested if they left voluntarily.
The protesters said they specifically sought the release of former guerrilla leader Jose "Xanana" Gusmao. He was jailed for 20 years for his role in heading an armed rebellion for East Timor's independence.
Embassy spokeswoman Pamela Smith said they would not be forced to leave.
Police arrested 36 protesters as they arrived in Jakarta by train, but others escaped the dragnet. Two people were arrested at the embassy.
Amnesty International said those detained were in danger, "given the longstanding pattern of torture and ill-treatment of East Timorese activists by Indonesian security forces."
The London-based human rights organization appealed to participants in Tuesday's summit "to take concrete steps to ensure that those currently in detention and those in the (embassy) compound are protected from human rights violations."
In East Timor, the anniversary of the massacre passed without incident.
Dissidents, mostly speaking on condition of anonymity, said they were afraid a protest might provoke a military crackdown.
"Nobody can speak. No one can demonstrate. People feel the pressure of the military all the time,"
said Bishop Carlos Belo, spiritual leader of East Timor's Roman Catholic majority.