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Jakarta Post

Comarca Balide Prison: A monument of tragedy

Jakarta   /   Sun, September 13 2009   /  11:29 am

A look into the cells inside. JP/PandayaA man dropped a pale brown book onto my lap, startling me and interrupting my interview with human rights activist Lita Sarmento in the hall of the CAVR (Timor Leste Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation) offices in an eastern suburb of Dili.

Soon Chiquito Guterres, a CAVR employee – as I learned his identity later –  became engrossed in chit-chat with Lita, so I leafed through the pages of Penjara Comarca Balide: ‘Gedung Suci’ (Comarca Balide Prison: A ‘Sacred Building’), written by Emma Coupland, a historian working for CAVR in 2004-2005.It’s quite a shock that this place was a dreaded house of torture the Indonesian occupation troops used soon after they invaded East Timor in 1975 until as recently as 1999, when locals opted for independence in a historic UN-sanctioned referendum.This very hall used to be t...