DILI, May 17 2007
A fugitive East Timor rebel leader, who has evaded a long-running manhunt by international troops, has agreed to most of the conditions for his surrender, his lawyer said Thursday.
Major Alfredo Reinado, criticised for his role in last year’s deadly unrest in the troubled state, wants a permanent halt to military operations against him and his loyal band of followers, his lawyer said.
“Our client is ready to surrender his weapons and face justice but military and police operations on him should be ceased,” Benevides Barros Correia told AFP. “Dialogue should start as soon as possible,” he added.
Reinado has fine tuned the details of this surrender in another letter to outgoing president Xanana Gusmao who has been corresponding with the fugitive in an attempt to secure his surrender without bloodshed.
“A temporary cease to (military) operations should be changed to total cease,” he said in the letter to Gusmao made available to AFP.
He also said he agreed to a suggestion to allow Dili Bishop Alberto Ricardo da Silva to mediate with authorities in the final steps to surrender.
It is unclear what would happen after he gave himself up, although he has said he is willing to face “justice”.
Reinado has been on the run since Australian-led troops attacked his mountain hideout in March. Five of his armed supporters were killed during the failed offensive, which triggered protests by his supporters.
The fugitive has previously been blamed in part for last year’s unrest, after he and others led 600 soldiers to desert the army over claims of discrimination.
The soldiers were sacked by the then prime minister, sparking firefights between factions of the military that degenerated into gang violence.
At least 37 people were killed, another 150,000 displaced and Australian-led international peacekeepers were dispatched to restore security.
The government approved the manhunt in February after Reinado attacked several border police outposts and fled with dozens of weapons.
Reinado had been central to fears that unrest could marr this month’s presidential election, which Jose Ramos-Horta won in a runoff.
But the fugitive vowed not to disrupt polling, and instead requested, including in writing, a negotiated surrender.