Radio France Internationale
Trial of President and PM’s would-be assassins begins
Article published on the 2009-07-14 Latest update 2009-07-15 08:07 TU
José Ramos-Horta returns from hospital in Australia to Dili airport in
The trial of 28 people accused of trying to kill East Timor’s President,
Jose Ramos-Horta, and Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmao, began in East
Timor’s capital, Dili, on Monday. In the dock are a group of soldiers
who deserted the army in 2006 and the Australian girlfriend of their
Ramos-Horta was flown to Australia for emergency surgery after being
shot several times during the assassination attempt. He has already
declared that he has forgiven the man who shot him and may pardon the
“He’s made it pretty clear in public statements that he will do that,”
says US-based Timor solidarity campaigner John Miller, adding that in
previous cases Ramos-Horta has “very quickly pardoned people that have
been convicted in the hopes of keeping social peace”.
Comment: John Miller, US national coordinator of the East Timor and
Indonesia Action Network [see
http://www.rfi.fr/actuen/articles/115/article_4336.asp for audio link]
The soldiers were part of a group of 600, led by Alfredo Reinado, who
deserted the East Timorese army in 2006. The rebellion triggered street
fighting in which 40 people were killed and 100,000 people were driven
from their homes.
But the failed assassinations brought an end to the violence which had
dogged the country since independence from Indonesia in 1999.
The defendants face charges ranging from attempted murder to conspiracy
to murder, arising from the co-ordinated attacks on the two leaders in
Reinado’s girlfriend, Anita Pires, who is a Timor-born Australian, is
accused of taking part in the attack. She says she will not accept a
“If I have to go to jail simply because of my love for Alfredo Reinado,
for my son, and for the people, so let it be. I’ll face it,” she told
Australia’s ABC television.
State prosecutors began the trial by ejecting Pires’s lawyers, an
Australian and a Brazilian, from the court.
“Angelita Pires supplied clothes and medicine to Alfredo Reinado and his
friends,” a prosecutor told the court, adding that she gave the
deserters “cigarettes which can reduce fear”, possibly a reference to
The men’s commander Gastao Salsinha, who took over from Reinado on his
death, is accused of launching the attacks. He and his men surrendered
in a formal ceremony, attended by Ramos-Horta, last year.
Salsinha denies the charges.
Miller hopes that the trial will throw light on the reasons for the
“Why they attacked, what their motives were, a lot of that just remains
unclear,” he says. “One of the hopes, I think, is that of the attackers
and some of their alleged co-conspirators will shed some light on
exactly what happened that day and why.”
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