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Foreigner held in Dili -- first since UN vote


Straits Times [Singapore] June 22, 2000

SYDNEY -- A Sydney man has been accused of drug dealing in Dili -- the first foreigner arrested in East Timor since the former Indonesian colony voted for independence in August last year.

The 44-year-old carpenter faced a spell in a Dili jail if convicted under Indonesian law, a United Nations spokesman said yesterday.

The East Timorese authorities are waiting for scientific analysis from Australia of suspected marijuana before deciding whether to charge the man.

If sentenced to jail under Indonesia's tough drug laws, the man could not expect to be transferred to an Australian prison, she said.

""From what I understand, the prisons are working, the judicial system is working,'' the spokesman said.

""If he's convicted, there is no reason why he would be sent to a different place.''

The Australian consulate in Dili has offered assistance, but the man, who has not been identified, declined any help.

The spokesman said the Australian had been assigned an East Timorese public defender. If charged, his trial would be heard by an East Timorese judge, although the law during the transition to independence remains Indonesian.

He is being held with about 100 East Timorese inmates in Becora Prison, which has been rebuilt since a post-ballot rampage by pro-Indonesian militias devastated East Timor.

The man was arrested at his Dili home on Saturday by United Nations police, who allegedly found between 10 and 20 marijuana plants growing in his backyard.

The spokesman said the man had been questioned for several hours before an East Timorese investigating judge ruled there was enough evidence of drug dealing to hold him for 30 days.

Meanwhile, some 30 donor nations are meeting in Lisbon to review progress in the reconstruction of East Timor, smashed up by pro-Indonesian gangs in an orgy of anger after its pro-independence vote last year.

A meeting in Tokyo in January organised by the UN and the World Bank agreed to provide US$520 million (S$885 million) towards rebuilding the territory.

Mr Klaus Rohland, the World Bank executive responsible for Asia and the Pacific, said the three-day Lisbon meeting would examine the progress made.

""This is not the time to ask for more money from donors but to let them know what we have done,'' he said. --AFP