12 October 1999
Local farmer witnessed murder of Sander Thoenes in East Timor
(CPJ/IFEX) - On 8 October 1999, CPJ reported that according to "The
Christian Science Monitor" and wire service reports, an East Timorese farmer
said he witnessed the shooting of Sander Thoenes, a Dutch correspondent
killed near Dili in September.
**Updates IFEX alerts of 23 September, 22 September and 21 September 1999**
Alexandre Estevao said the gunmen wore Indonesian military uniforms with
insignia for Battalion 745, a unit of East Timorese known for their loyalty
Watching from behind a water tank at a distance of about 125 paces, Estevao
said he saw the soldiers drag Thoenes's body off the road and into a lot
where United Nations (UN) peacekeepers found it the next morning. As the
soldiers restarted their trucks and motorcycles, Estevao fled.
The soldiers were driving through Becora on five trucks and ten motorcycles,
some of them flying Indonesian flags, Estevao said.
Estevao's account further implicates the Indonesian military in Thoenes'
death, an assertion that has been denied by government leaders in Jakarta.
They have maintained that "rogue elements" of the military may have been
responsible for the shooting, but not the military itself.
Thoenes' motorcycle taxi driver told Western reporters on the day of the
shooting that Thoenes was killed by six gunmen wearing Indonesian military
On Monday 4 October, Australia's Major General Cosgrove, commander of the UN
peacekeeping forces in East Timor, said that he had sent a letter to the
Indonesian military officials demanding that Indonesia hand over four
officers believed to have been involved in Thoenes' death and in an earlier,
non-fatal attack on Western journalists Jon Swain and photographer Chip
Hires, their driver, and their translator (see IFEX alerts of 22 September
and 21 September 1999). After the Indonesian military failed to respond to
this letter, Cosgrove sent a second letter on Friday 8 October, renewing the
Thoenes, 30, a correspondent for "The Financial Times" and contributor to
"The Christian Science Monitor" and the Dutch newspaper "Vrij Nederland",
was found dead on the morning of 21 September. He was the first of two
journalists killed in East Timor since the conflict began: Agus Muliawan,
26, an Indonesian journalist working for the Japanese news agency Asia Press
International was gunned down with a group of Catholic church workers on 25
September (see IFEX alerts of 1 October, 30 September and 28 September