Gusmao MPs trying to shut down criminal trial of Deputy PM and Minister

FRETILIN

MEDIA RELEASE

Dili, 13 March 2011

Timor-Leste politicians allied to the Gusmao government are trying to shut down criminal prosecution of two ministers accused of official misconduct and corruption, FRETILIN’s parliamentary spokesperson and MP Jose Teixeira said today.

Mr Teixeira said two district courts have separately summoned Deputy Prime Minister Jose Luis Guterres and Minister for State Administration Arcanjo Leite to answer criminal charges brought by the Prosecutor General’s office.

“The trials cannot proceed unless parliament lifts the ministers’ constitutional immunity from prosecution, as the courts have requested,” Mr Teixeira said.

“However Parliament’s committee on ethics, controlled by MPs belonging to Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao’s AMP coalition, recommended that parliament not suspend them,” he said.

“Government MPs then succeeded in deferring a parliamentary vote on whether to suspend the pair until 5 April 2011.

“Voting will be by secret ballot and there is little doubt the majority will refuse to lift immunity. This will be another nail in the coffin for the rule of law in Timor-Leste.”

He said the accused ministers would automatically lose their immunity if Prime Minister Gusmao removed them from their posts, “but this self-proclaimed corruption fighter appears unwilling to risk further infighting within his coalition by doing so”.

The Dili District Court has summoned Deputy Prime Minister Guterres to be tried on charges of corruptly using his official position to financially advantage his wife.

Baucau District Court has summoned Minister for State Administration Arcanjo Leite to face trial on charges of willful damaging maladministration.

Mr Teixeira said government MPs were promoting a culture of impunity for high officials and their connections and weakening the justice system by slandering the Prosecutor General’s office, which includes local and foreign jurists, with unfounded accusations of political bias.

For further information contact Jose Teixeira MP on +670 728 7080

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