Angelita Pires cleared of plot to assassinate East Timor leaders

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Aussie not guilty of East Timor plot
Aussie Angelita Pires has been cleared of plotting to assassinate East Timor's top two political...
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Angelita Pires, right, after being cleared of plotting to kill East Timor's leaders. She had been the lover of one of the would-be assassins / AFP Source: AFP

  • Pires had faced a 20-year sentence
  • She was rebel leader's former lover
  • Jail for 23 people who took part in attack

ANGELITA Pires has been cleared of the attempted assassination of East Timor's President and Prime minister.

Twenty rebels, however, were jailed with various sentences for the 2008 gun attack.

"Today is the most important day of my life. I have rightfully regained my freedom," Angelita Pires said outside the court after judges dismissed the prosecutors' argument that she was a key player in the plot.

"I'd like to say that I have learned that liberty is one of the most important things an individual can possess," added Pires, who faced up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Pires, an East Timor-born Australian, was tried for seven months together with 27 rebels over the February 2008 attacks on President Jose Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao.

Of the other defendants, 23 were sentenced to jail terms ranging from nine to 16 years. There was no immediate word on the remaining four.

Gunmen shot at Ramos-Horta outside his Dili home, leaving him seriously wounded, and also fired on the car of Gusmao, who escaped unhurt.

Pires's boyfriend, rebel leader Alfredo Reinado, was shot dead by the president's guards during the attack and his followers subsequently surrendered.

The death of the charismatic Reinado, coupled with public distress over Ramos-Horta's brush with death, helped bring an end to the rebellion.

Prosecutor Felismeno Cardoso said last month that Pires was pivotal to the plot as she made several trips to the northern Australian city of Darwin to raise funds for the rebels.

The other defendants included ex-soldiers from a group of 600 who deserted in 2006, triggering fighting that killed some 40 people and forced 100,000 from their homes in the former Indonesian territory.

East Timor won formal independence in 2002, three years after a UN-backed referendum that saw an overwhelming vote to break away from Indonesia following a 24-year occupation.


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