by Peter Stanford
FOUR East Timorese students at the Catholic University in Jakarta have found themselves at the centre of an international incident. The four, who are seeking asylum in Portugal, technically still the administering power in East Timor in the eyes of the United Nations, are currently in hiding and there are fears for their safety.
Antonio Goncalves, Jose Freitas da Camara, Abilio Serena and Fernando Soares were arrested in September and disappeared.
After widespread protests about their fate, and on the eve of a meeting of European foreign ministers in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, the four were released last week, but immediately sought refuge in the Dutch Embassy.
The Dutch represent the Portuguese in Jakarta. Portugal and Indonesia brake off diplomatic links ten years ago when the Indonesians forcibly annexed East Timor.
After assurances from the Indonesian government to the Dutch foreign minister, the four left the embassy. However, after the European foreign ministers left, the threats against them began again, and they are now in hiding after making several unsuccessful attempts to re-enter the Dutch embassy. They were stopped by Indonesian guards.
The Indonesian Foreign Minister, Dr Mechtar dismissed the four's request for asylum. "These four students are not facing any problems. They can leave the embassy tomorrow and go back to college."
Observers feel that there may be some links between the arrest of the four and the detention of students in Dili, the Timorese capital. Several were rounded up in August for refusing to take part in indonesian sponsored celebrations aimed at marking ten years of brutal repression of the former Portuguese colony by the Jakarta government.
• Smuggled documents which have just arrived in Lisbon suggest that the Indonesians are planning another major offensive against the popular Fretilin forces which are fighting for self-determination for the people of East Timor. "The enemy has increased its military presence in East Timor to 50 battalions", the documents report.
"The Indonesians will try now, as they did before, to wipe out Fretilin, and they think by capturing and killing the leaders they will put an end to us. They cannot, not as long as there is one Timorese alive", a spokesperson for Fretilin said in Lisbon.