Solidarity Statement on the Arrest of Young Timorese Students

01 September 2009

[Note: those arrested were held close to the maximum 72 hours allowed by law before being brought to court, where they were released without charge. – JMM/ETAN] To Ex. Dr. Longuinos Monteiro, General Commander of the Timor-Leste National Police

Solidarity Papua

Photo: Jörg Meier

We, representatives of different international solidarity organizations, call for the immediate release of the three university students who were arrested at the press conference in front of the Hotel Timor on 30 August 2009. We call for all charges be dropped. On that day, the students gathered to express their solidarity with other places in the world facing severe repression and violence, including West Papua, Sri Lanka, Western Sahara, Burma, Maluku, and Mindanao. We are inspired by their enthusiasm to speak up for their brothers and sisters in other parts of the world, and we are deeply saddened that the Timor-Leste police felt threatened by their enthusiasm and chose to silence the students, repressing their right to free expression, as guaranteed in Article 40 the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste. From 27-29 August 2009, a solidarity conference was held in Dili to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Timor-Leste’s referendum on independence. At this conference, speakers shared stories about past international solidarity for Timor-Leste and explained current struggles that need support. Participants gathered in workshops to learn more together and to plan actions for continuing solidarity. Young Timorese activists resolved to support oppressed people in other parts of the world, just as the international solidarity movement had supported their own nation’s struggle for self-determination.


Photo: Jörg Meier

Some of us were with the students in front of the Hotel Timor on 30 August 2009. All of us strongly defend the importance of free speech in Timor-Leste and around the world. Often, only the enthusiasm and courage of young activists makes social change and progress possible. We congratulate the students for standing up for what they believe, and we thank them for the inspiration they give to us and others. Article 10 of the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste directly and strongly commits the state to offering solidarity to other parts of the world facing struggles for self-determination and human dignity. Timor-Leste is a country of very young people. In the challenging process of nation building, we believe the youth have a huge role to play. We call on Timor-Leste’s leaders to recognize and encourage the youth and we again call for the immediate release of the three students still held in detention and that all charges be dropped.

Signed: Freddy Gamage Friends of the Third World Sri Lanka John M. Miller East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (U.S.) Tim Howard Indonesia Human Rights Committee (New Zealand) Saskia Kouwenberg (The Netherlands) Jefferson Lee Australia East Timor Association Pedro Pinto Leite International Platform of Jurists for East Timor Simo Hellsten Board member, Committee of 100 (Finland) Joerg Meier Watch Indonesia (Germany) (more to be added later)

Statement from Student Press conference:

KONFERENSIA DA IMPRENSA Press Conference National University of Timor-Leste, Kaikoli, Dili 31 August 2009 The Timor-Leste Student Front condemns the attitude of the members of the National Police in relation to the arrest of the students when they would like to demonstrate their solidarity to the people in other countries that are still struggling for independence, on August 30th 2009. Therefore the Students’ Front condemns this attitude which is not a example of professionalism of the National Police. Our position is as follows: 1. The Students’ Front of Timor-Leste disagrees and laments the attitude of the PNTL officers, who aggressively arrested three students in front of the Hotel Timor. 2. We urge the government to improve the professionalism of the PNTL so that they can serve the rule of law with professionalism in the future. 3. We call to the state institutions of Timor-Leste to maintain and secure the RDTL constitution, especially article 10 that states that the Republic Democratic of TL is also in solidarity with other people who are struggling to liberate their country. 4. We condemn the attitude of the PNTL which showed disrespect to the “Freedom of Expression” that is guaranteed in the Constitution of RDTL. 5. We urge the PNTL to cancel the decision to extend the detention into 72 hours, because according to the law it needs strong evidence of crime to do so. They might extend it to 72 hours, but the students did not commit a crime. 6. We urge the Police to release the three students within the time limit starting from 9 am until before 3 pm. If the they haven’t been released within the time limit, we will organize the Youth Front, the Street Vendors and the people of Maubere to organize a demonstration in front of the National Police. <>

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