Pires awaits verdict in East Timor kill plot

By Sara Everingham in Dili

Awaiting a verdict: Pires could face up to 20 years in prison

Awaiting a verdict: Pires could face up to 20 years in prison (ABC: Sara Everingham)

Australian woman Angelita Pires will today learn her fate over the alleged assassination attempt against two of East Timor's leaders.

Pires is one of 28 people standing trial over the alleged assassination attempt against East Timorese president Jose Ramos-Horta and prime minister Xanana Gusmao in February 2008.

After an eight-month battle in East Timor's courts and evidence from 130 witnesses, a panel of three judges will deliver the verdict later today.

Prosecutors say Pires played a key role in the attempt on the president's life and if she is found guilty she could sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.

Dr Ramos-Horta was shot outside his compound in Dili on February 11, 2008.

During the trial the prosecution argued that rebel leader Alfredo Reinado led the attack and his girlfriend, Pires, encouraged him to carry it out.

Reinado was shot dead at the president's home during the attack.

The defence argued he was lured there to be killed and that there was no plot to kill the president at all.

'Enormous strain'

Yesterday on the eve of the verdict, Pires stayed away from the cameras and let her lawyers do the talking.

Jon Tippett QC, one of her Australian lawyers, says the battle is taking a toll on his client.

"She's feeling obviously very strained. It's been an enormous emotional strain for her over nine months," he said.

"She is very concerned about her future [but] she knows that the evidence is not there to convict her."

Mr Tippett says if the decision does not go their way there will be an appeal.

"We brought forward scientific evidence and other evidence to show that our client is clearly innocent of the counts that have been brought against her," he said.

"So if the case is decided on the evidence, we're confident the verdict will be favourable."

Lawyers for other defendants accused over the alleged attempt on the life of Mr Gusmao have also argued there was no assassination plot.

In summing up they argued crime scene investigations found that all 14 bullets fired at the prime minister's car came from the angle of his UN security escort, which was staffed by Bangladeshi police and not from the direction of the defendants.

They put this down to a mistake, friendly fire or panic.

Meanwhile, Dr Ramos-Horta says he might consider reducing the sentence of anyone found guilty but the circumstances must be right.

"If the prisoners showed good behaviour, if they show remorse at what they did, having served a number of years, [then I might consider it]," he said.

"Because it is not automatic. The president can not automatically simply write off a prison sentence."

source: ABC News

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