Balibo widow angry over implicated Indonesian spy chief

The widow of Australian journalist Greg Shackleton says it is a disgrace that a retired general implicated in the murder of the Balibo Five has been appointed chief of Indonesia's intelligence agencies.

Almost 40 years since the killing of the five journalists in Timor-Leste, Shirley Shackleton fears the appointment of retired lieutenant-general Sutiyoso has dashed hopes of her husband's remains ever being returned.

The 70-year-old Sutiyoso, who President Joko Widodo named in June as the new chief of the Indonesian Intelligence Agency (BIN), was an army captain in charge of a special forces unit in East Timor when the newsmen were killed on October 16, 1975.

Sutiyoso has denied being in Balibo at the time of the murders, despite claims he led a force known as "Team Susi" in the attack on the small border town.

As the chief of Indonesia's intelligence agencies, Sutiyoso will be central to arrangements between Australia and Indonesia in terms of sharing of intelligence and other issues of security.

It's unclear if he will be involved in talks with Australian officials in Jakarta this week, understood to include discussions on intelligence sharing, which will be attended by Justice Minister Michael Keenan.

'It's a disgrace'

"It's a disgrace," Shirley Shackleton said of Sutiyoso's appointment. "I find it rather strange that he was part of team Susi, but claims he wasn't there for the biggest attack of many that took place over more than a year near that border."

In 2007, a diplomatic row was caused when police approached Sutiyoso at his Sydney hotel in an attempt to have him appear at the Balibo inquest. Despite being In the middle leading a trade delegation, he returned to Jakarta the following day.

"He wouldn't even go into the witness box to swear he wasn't there.

He wouldn't allow himself to be questioned in any way," Shackleton said. "I still want to bring my husband's remains home, and I don't know how we would ever get permission with that man there because he is implicated in some way."

The former governor of Jakarta has faced questions over human rights abuses in the past.

In June, when he was named BIN chief, students protested in Jakarta over long-standing allegations he ordered a raid on the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle headquarters in central Jakarta in July 1996. Five people were believed to have been killed in the incident, while dozens went missing.

Greg Shackleton was 29 when he was in East Timor, covering the Indonesian invasion. The group also included Australian sound recordist Tony Stewart, 21; cameraman Gary Cunningham, 27, from New Zealand; and two Britons -- cameraman Brian Peters, 24, and reporter Malcolm Rennie, 29.

Last year, the Australian Federal Police dropped a war crimes investigation into the murders, citing insufficient evidence.

The 2007 New South Wales coronial inquest concluded the men were "shot and or stabbed deliberately, and not in the heat of battle" in order to cover up the Indonesian invasion.