Leaked autopsy report shows alleged “coup” leader Reinado shot at
point-blank range

WSWS on autopsy reports

By Patrick O’Connor
2 September 2008


Two leaked autopsy reports—which have been published in full on the
Wikileaks web site—definitively refute the official version of the
events of February 11 in East Timor, according to which former major
Alfredo Reinado had engaged in a shoot-out with President Jose Ramos
Horta’s security forces while attempting to storm the president’s
residence. This was supposedly part of either a coup attempt or planned
assassination of both Ramos Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao. The
available evidence now strongly points to the likelihood—raised by the
World Socialist Web Site from the very outset—that Reinado was set up
and lured to Dili in order to be murdered.

Reinado’s autopsy report indicates that he died after being shot
through the eye at near point-blank range. According to a forensic
expert consulted by the Australian newspaper, the autopsy’s finding of
“burning/blackening of the surrounding skin” to each of Reinado’s four
wounds (to the eye, chest, neck, and hand) means that he must have been
shot from a range of less than 30 centimetres. The report on Reinado’s
colleague Leopoldino Exposto found that he was killed by a single
gunshot to the back of the head, also by a “high-velocity rifle fired
at close range”.

Reinado and his men were heavily armed when they entered Ramos Horta’s
house in the early morning of February 11. The autopsies reported that
Reinado was wearing a green vest with 12 magazines containing a total
of “347 live ammunitions” in the pockets. Exposto had one magazine with
39 live ammunitions in his vest, as well as a bag with another 98 live
ammunitions. It is inconceivable that Reinado—who had received
militarily training in Australia—could have led his men into a hostile
operation against Ramos Horta but was then somehow shot at point-blank
range while not a single presidential guard was wounded.

Reinado’s men, who have since been arrested, have all sworn that they
understood that they had an appointment to meet with the president.
Several civilian witnesses have now backed this testimony.

For months after the former major’s killing and Ramos Horta’s wounding
the Australian press echoed the official line presented by both the
Timorese and Australian governments. Deeply sceptical statements issued
by a number of senior political figures in Dili went unreported, most
notably those of Fretilin leader and former Prime Minister Mari
Alkatiri, who declared he had photographic proof that the alleged
attack on Gusmao’s vehicle had been staged.

The official version of events is now so implausible and discredited
that even the Australian media feel obligated to change tack.

After reviewing the autopsy evidence, the Australian’s Paul Toohey
concluded on August 13: “What is certain is that the events inside the
villa that morning are not as clear as previously presented, and may
have involved Reinado and Exposto either walking into a trap or being
held at close quarters before being shot.” A later article in the same
newspaper added: “Many East Timorese believe the whole thing was a
set-up; that rebel leader Alfredo Reinado was invited down to Dili to
be killed, to end the two-year stand-off in which he and his rebel band
remained armed and roaming the hills in the country’s west.”

An article published in the Fairfax press on August 19 cast serious
doubt on the earlier allegation that one of Reinado’s men, Marcel
Caetano, had shot President Ramos Horta. “Investigators now believe the
shooter was wearing a different uniform from that of Reinado’s men—a
uniform gang members used to wear,” the story revealed. “The revelation
will fuel fresh speculation in Dili that Reinado was lured to Mr Ramos
Horta’s house, where gunmen were waiting.”

The series of leaked evidence and news reports that has emerged in the
past fortnight raise the obvious question: if, as appears increasingly
certain, Reinado was lured to Ramos Horta’s residence to be killed, who
set him up and why? But this question has not been raised by any
section of the Australian media. Even more astonishingly, not a single
question about the events of February 11 and their aftermath was put to
either Gusmao or Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd during a joint
press conference they held in Canberra last Monday.

Gusmao and the 2006 crisis

The new evidence points to the possibility that Prime Minister Gusmao,
or forces closely aligned with him, were responsible for setting up
Reinado’s assassination. There is no question that he was among those
with the most to gain from Reinado’s death.

Just weeks before his death, the former major released a statement
accusing Gusmao of directly instigating the 2006 split in the Timorese
military which precipitated widespread violence and culminated in the
deployment of hundreds of Australian troops, followed by the
resignation of Fretilin Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri.

There was already substantial evidence pointing to Gusmao’s provocative
role in the 2006 crisis. Reinado’s statement, however, indicated that
the prime minister had not merely exploited the military split for his
own ends but had actively worked to provoke the violence in order to
bring down the Fretilin administration. The widely circulated DVD in
which these allegations were made also included Reinado’s threat to
reveal more information about Gusmao’s actions.

Reinado was killed before he had the opportunity to release further
information. But even his initial allegations had seriously destabilised
Gusmao’s already unstable coalition government.

By early February, President Ramos Horta had publicly indicated that he
agreed with Fretilin’s demand for fresh elections and the formation of
a new administration. In a meeting held in Dili on February 7—just four
days before Reinado was shot dead—Ramos Horta convened a meeting of
Fretilin and government parliamentarians to try to reach an agreement
for new elections. With Gusmao strongly opposed and insisting that his
government could continue to govern, the meeting ended inconclusively.
Further meetings were planned but never held, due to the February 11
violence, after which Gusmao announced a “state of siege” and claimed
emergency authoritarian powers.

Ramos Horta’s apparent rapprochement with Fretilin and moves against
Gusmao coincided with the president’s attempts to finalise a
“surrender” deal with Reinado. The president met with the “rebel”
soldier on January 13 and offered to amnesty the murder charges against
Reinado (stemming from his 2006 attacks on government forces) if he
first disarmed and submitted to house arrest. These negotiations again
point to the absence of any logical motive for Reinado to lead an armed
attack against Ramos Horta.

Investigation blocked, evidence corrupted

In the aftermath of the February 11 events, Prime Minister Gusmao has
blocked the formation of an international inquiry, despite the Timorese
parliament demanding one. As a result, the sole investigation underway
is headed by the country’s prosecutor-general, Longuinhos Monteiro, who
has little credibility in Dili. An earlier UN report into the 2006
crisis accused Monteiro of blindly following Gusmao and concluded that
he did not “function independently from the state of East Timor”.

According to a leaked UN report on Monteiro’s investigation into
Reinado’s death and Ramos Horta’s wounding, the National Investigation
Department has been subjected to “political and military interference”
and a lack of cooperation. An Associated Press report added: “Poor
handling of evidence—including the weapons used by the rebels—has also
botched the investigation. A source close to the investigation said the
F-FDTL [Timorese Defence Force] soldiers guarding the president’s home
took Reinado’s cell phone off his body, and continued to receive and
make calls for days after his death, before handing it over to

This corruption of critical evidence, combined with Gusmao’s veto of an
international investigation, may result in the exact course of events
leading up to Reinado’s death and Ramos Horta’s wounding never being
known. Monteiro’s final report will likely be a whitewash.

Serious questions have been raised by Portuguese journalist Felícia
Cabrita about Albino Assis, one of Ramos Horta’s military security
personnel. In a report published in the weekly Sol newspaper in March,
Cabrita suggested that Assis betrayed both Reinado and Ramos Horta.
Phone records indicate that Assis and Reinado had maintained frequent
contact in the period leading up to the February 11 violence. The
Portuguese report also alleged that Assis contacted Salsinha, leader of
the mutinous military “petitioners”, and told him that Reinado had been
killed and Ramos Horta badly wounded. Salsinha had travelled from the
western districts with Reinado but, instead of going with him to visit
Ramos Horta, had waited near Gusmao’s residence. Why did Assis tell
Salsinha what had happened? Did Ramos Horta’s guard know in advance
that the petitioners’ leader had come to Dili with Reinado? The many
unanswered questions only add to the uncertainty about what really
happened in relation to the alleged attack on Gusmao’s vehicle convoy
which followed the shootings at Ramos Horta’s home.

Suspicion has also fallen on the Indonesian-based Hercules Rozario
Marcal, who visited Dili just days before February 11. “Hercules was
born in East Timor and gained notoriety in Jakarta in the 1990s as a
gangster running protection rackets,” Melbourne’s Age reported. “His
gang also served as enforcers for the Suharto regime, intimidating
dissidents and East Timorese independence activists. His military
patrons were reputed to include the then general Prabowo Subianto,
Suharto’s son-in-law. At one stage he lived in the Jakarta house of
Major-General Zacky Anwar Makarim, who in 2003 was indicted by a UN war
crimes tribunal for crimes against humanity.”

Timorese investigators have reportedly established that Hercules
contacted and may have met Reinado. His contact number was also found
stored in Reinado’s mobile phone. On January 21, just three weeks
before Reinado was killed, Hercules met with Gusmao, ostensibly as part
of an Indonesian business delegation investigating hotel and housing
investment opportunities. In an extraordinary move, the Gusmao
government announced earlier this month that it was awarding Hercules a
contract to build a mini-mart and swimming pool on the site of a
refugee camp in central Dili—despite the gangster reportedly being
under investigation for his potential involvement in Ramos Horta and
Reinado’s shooting.

Australian forces stood down?

There remain a number of outstanding questions regarding the Australian
government and military’s murky relations with Reinado, going back to
his role in the 2006 crisis. (See “East Timor: Hunt for ‘rebel’ military
leader called off”)

In the weeks leading up to February 11, Reinado and the Australian
military, using Angelita Pires as a go-between, informed each other
about their respective movements in order to avoid any unexpected
encounters in the jungle of Timor’s western districts. In addition, it
is now also known that at least one senior Australian military figure
was directly involved in the negotiations between Ramos Horta and
Reinado in January. According to an August 22 article in the
Australian, Major Michael Stone accompanied the president to the
January 13 meeting in the western town of Maubisse. Stone was appointed
Ramos Horta’s military affairs adviser in late 2007 after being granted
a two-year release from his Australian Army duties.

There can be no doubt that Australian intelligence would have had the
former major under close surveillance up to and on February 11.
Similarly, it is highly unlikely that Reinado’s many phone calls and
text messages sent from his mobile phone—including calls made to and
received from Australia—would not have been intercepted.

How then were Reinado and his men able to drive from the Ermera
district, south-west of the capital, through the capital and straight
into Ramos Horta’s residence without being detected by anyone,
including the hundreds of Australian and New Zealand troops in the
country? With twelve heavily armed men accompanying Reinado in two
vehicles, and another ten with Salsinha in two other vehicles, it was
hardly an inconspicuous convoy. In addition, Reinado’s men have told
the media that they drove slowly to avoid being early for what they
believed was a 6 a.m. appointment to meet the president. “The rebels
point out they dawdled on the way to Dili, stopping in places to kill
time to arrive at the appointed hour,” the Australian reported.

The day after the February 11 attacks, East Timor’s army chief Taur
Matan Ruak expressed his concern: “Given the high number of
international forces present in East Timor, in particular within the
capital, how is it possible that vehicles transporting armed people
have entered the city and executed an approach to the residences of the
president and the prime minister without having been detected? There
has been a lack of capacity shown by the international forces, who have
primary responsibility for the security within East Timor, to foresee,
react and prevent these events.”

Ramos Horta later made similar comments: “I didn’t see any ISF
[Australian-led International Stabilisation Force] elements or UNPOL
[police] in the area ... normally they are supposed to show up
instantly, and in this case of extreme gravity they would normally seal
off the entire area, blocking the exit route of the attackers. That
didn’t happen. As far as I know, no hostile pursuit of the attackers
was made for several days. How did Mr Alfredo Reinado happen to be
totally undetected in Dili when the ISF was supposed to be keeping an
eye on his movements?”

The circumstances of Reinado’s death raise the question as to whether
Australian forces were deliberately stood down on February 11.

Such an act would in no way be inconsistent with Canberra’s filthy
record in East Timor. In 1975 the Whitlam Labor government encouraged
the Indonesian military junta to invade and annexe the former
Portuguese colony; the Hawke-Keating Labor government later finalised
an agreement with the military dictator Suharto for the illegal
exploitation of the billion dollar oil and gas reserves in the Timor
Sea. In 1999 the Howard Liberal government dispatched hundreds of
troops in order to protect the Australian ruling elite’s vital
interests in the tiny half-island, and oversee its transition to
so-called independence amid the collapse of the Suharto regime.

The precise role played by Australian forces in the 2006 military split
and subsequent violence is yet to be determined. There is no doubt,
however, that the Howard government manipulated the unrest to send in
the troops and then engineer a “regime change” commensurate with its
strategic and financial interests. The Alkatiri administration was
regarded as too close to rival powers, particularly Portugal and China,
and had proved unwilling to fully accommodate Canberra’s demands during
negotiations over the allocation of the Timor Sea’s oil and gas.

Having expended substantial efforts resources in ousting Alkatiri, the
Australian government would have viewed with alarm President Ramos
Horta’s apparent readiness to back the dissolution of the Gusmao
government, potentially facilitating Alkatiri’s return to power. Amid
escalating hostility among ordinary Timorese towards Australia’s
military presence, this would have marked a major setback, with
potential geo-strategic consequences beyond Timor’s borders. China’s
rising influence is creating serious concerns within the Australian
foreign policy establishment that Canberra’s hegemony in the South
Pacific is being fatally undermined. It is this, above all, that has
led to a series of Australian-led police and military operations
throughout the region in recent years, including in East Timor.

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