Paul Toohey | July 20, 2009
A "HIGHLY protected" Australian Federal Police ballistics report shows that one of Timorese President Jose Ramos Horta's personal guards, who claims he shot dead the rebel leader Major Alfredo Reinado, could not have done so.
Other highly damaging documents obtained by The Australian show the AFP believes political figures could have lured Reinado to the President's compound on February 11 last year to be executed, stating that it may have been a "successful trap to finally silence Reinado".
The AFP's ballistics report, secret until now, will shake the foundations of the trial of Australian-Timorese citizen Angelita Pires and 27 of Reinado's rebels and associates, which began last week in the Dili District Court.
The 28 defendants are charged with numerous counts of conspiring or attempting to kill Dr Ramos Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao.
The AFP's special forensic investigation into February 11, Operation Oportet, makes a very different case to that presented by East Timor prosecution authorities and lays open questions as to whether third-party figures -- neither soldiers nor rebels -- were involved.
The reports were provided by the AFP under a Freedom of Information request from Ms Pires's Australian lawyers, Jon Tippett QC and Peter Maley.
In his witness statements, F-FDTL (East Timorese army) presidential guard Francisco Lino Marcal claims he shot both Reinado and his offsider, Leopoldino Exposto, with an FNC Minimi automatic weapon.
The Minimi takes the standard NATO-approved 5.56mm bullets. The AFP ballistics report states that not only were Reinado and Leopoldino shot with non-NATO calibre bullets, each rebel was shot with different bullets from different guns.
The East Timorese army -- including the President's guards -- are issued with FNC and M16 automatic weapons, both of which take 5.56mm bullets. Likewise, the guns in the possession of the rebels were HK33 automatics, which also take 5.56mm bullets.
The metal-jacketed bullets are designed not to fragment on impact in order to minimise tissue damage and make surgery easier.
The AFP report finds Dr Ramos Horta was shot with 5.56mm NATO bullets.
While there was minor fragmentation, the bullets largely stayed intact in his body.
The bullets that killed Reinado were different to the one bullet that killed Leopoldino, but both types fragmented inside their bodies.
Experts test-fired all the guns supposedly used (or not used) by the rebels and the President's guard, including Marcal's FNC Minimi.
Of the fragments found in Reinado, the reports states: "The characteristics excluded it from being fired from any of the test-fired firearms. The make, model or calibre of the firearm from which it was fired could not be established."
It states that the rifling characteristics on the Reinado fragments "are different to the rifling characteristics on the bullet fragments recovered from Ramos-Horta and (Leopoldino) Exposto".
Likewise, it finds the fragments recovered from Leopoldino were not fired from any of the tested weapons.
The two weapons that killed the two rebels have disappeared.
While the AFP was able to confirm Dr Ramos Horta was shot with 5.56mm NATO bullets, they were unable to match the bullets to any guns they test-fired.
Marcal states that he took a concealed position in the door of a bathroom at the back of the President's compound and shot both rebels simultaneously. He says Reinado was 30 to 40m away, and Leopoldino was 15 to 20m away.
However, as The Australian revealed in August, Reinado's autopsy showed he had significant burning and blackening around his entry wounds. Ballistic experts said this could only mean he was shot at point-blank range.
Reinado was shot in the eye, the neck, the chest and had what appeared to be a defensive wound to his hand. Leopoldino's autopsy showed he was shot at point-blank range in the back of the head, execution-style, as though he'd been put on the ground.
This supports the AFP theory -- and rebel claims -- that Reinado believed he had an arranged meeting with Dr Ramos Horta. Someone who was apparently friendly with Reinado was able to get close to him in open ground within the compound.
One of the AFP documents also undermines a prosecution claim that Ms Pires, Reinado's girlfriend, sent him a text message at 2am on the morning of February 11. The report says "analysis of Reinado's phones indicates that this message may have been sent by another woman named (name deleted)".
The AFP says there are many media theories for what happened -- a planned assassination or coup attempt; or that Reinado planned to kidnap the leaders -- but says there might be "a different story".
It states: "Another explanation may be that it was a successful trap to finally silence Reinado."
The report says that one of the last calls made from Reinado's phone was to a member of MUNJ, or the Movement for National Unity and Justice. This shady civilian group was accused in a UN report of stirring up trouble in the 2006 crisis but was appointed by Dr Ramos Horta in 2007 to act as a conduit between him and the rebels. The documents confirm two members of MUNJ spent the final evening with Reinado.
They are listed to appear in the trial as witnesses for the prosecution, but the AFP asks: "Did they accompany Reinado in their vehicles to Dili?"
One group of rebels led by Reinado went to the President's compound and another, led by Lieutenant Gasta Salsinha, positioned themselves near Mr Gusmao's compound and allegedly ambushed his motorcade.
However, a non-AFP intelligence report seen by The Australian states that the only "visible shooter" in the Gusmao roadside ambush was wearing "civilian clothes, a sports jacket with a hood". All the rebels were wearing military fatigues.
The Dili court heard last week from the President's two bodyguards, who said they saw just one masked gunman on the road as they escorted Dr Ramos Horta home from his morning walk.
One of the bodyguards, Sergeant Pedro Joaquim Soares, said he saw the accused rebel Marcelo Caetano take aim and shoot at Dr Ramos Horta. But Soares admitted the man he identified as Caetano was wearing a balaclava.
A confidential UN report has witnesses stating that Reinado and his men were inside the President's compound for at least 50 minutes before they were shot. During this time, none of the nine civilians or the 13 soldiers that were present thought to notify authorities.
In fact, as the report notes, nine of Dr Ramos Horta's 13 guards mysteriously disappeared altogether when Reinado turned up.
More than ever, it appears the official version of events is a cover-up. It now seems possible that immediately after Reinado and Leopoldino were shot, the rebels fled for the hills and were nowhere near the compound when an unknown masked gunman shot Dr Ramos Horta.
Speaking inside the courtroom, a grim Caetano told The Australian: "I never used a mask. I didn't use anything to cover my face".
He agreed he was at the compound that morning but said none of the rebels used masks and none saw Dr Ramos Horta being shot: "I had no bad intentions for the President. I am innocent."
The AFP reports on background to the events, saying Mr Gusmao had lost patience with Reinado, to whom Dr Ramos Horta had promised an amnesty on May 20 last year.
In the days prior to February 11, it is known Dr Ramos Horta had been in discussions to call early elections, which could have seen Mr Gusmao's fragile coalition lose power.
Mr Tippett believes the AFP documents, which are yet to be put to the Dili court, outline a substantially different set of events and lend weight to Ms Pires's claims of innocence.
However, he said the information provided by the AFP under FOI had been dramatically edited and redacted. "We believe the AFP are in possession of further exculpatory material which they haven't provided and could assist in the acquittal of my client," Mr Tippett said.
The available documents do not offer an explanation as to who shot Dr Ramos Horta.