Pires relieved at not guilty verdict

By Sara Everingham in Dili

For the first time in nearly seven months, Australian woman Angelita Pires can relax, after being acquitted of involvement in a plot to assassinate East Timor's leaders.

Ms Pires was the girlfriend of Major Alfredo Reinado, the rebel leader who was fatally shot during an assassination attempt last year on East Timor's president and prime minister.

Yesterday Ms Pires was found not guilty but 24 of her co-accused were found guilty and face jail sentences ranging from nine to 16 years.

Outside the Dili District Court, Ms Pires fought back tears as she thanked those who had supported her battle in the courts.

"I'm extremely relieved to be exonerated by the court of any involvement in the events of February 11, 2008," Ms Pires said.

"My life has been on hold for over two years and it has been an enormously stressful and emotional time for me and for my loved ones."

Ms Pires' mother, Maria Pires, has been following events from her home in Darwin.

"I can't explain to you how I feel. I was screaming, crying, jumping and I just don't know what to say," Maria Pires said.

"But at least I'm happy because justice has been done."

Ms Pires says she was charged simply for being in a relationship with Reinado, who was shot dead during the attack on the president.

Co-accused found guilty

While the panel of judges found there was not enough evidence to convict Pires, they found 24 of her co-accused guilty.

Most of them are former soldiers and police who deserted their ranks and became rebels during the security crisis of 2006.

Yesterday their supporters gathered at the court to hear the verdict.

One of the supporters said the rebels were not responsible for the attacks and this decision would only make them more bold and angry.

Defence lawyers Andre Fernandes says he will appeal but the matter should be left with the courts.

"Personally I am not happy with it," Mr Fernandes said.

"We have to respect it and we have to follow the legal way and we have to appeal it. I hope that everybody will respect the law.

"It's not good for the country if we have any kind of problem any more."

East Timor's police commander, Longhuinos Monteiro, says he too hopes nobody tries to take the law into their own hands.

"The judicial system itself is working according to its own way so if any distrust or they feel that it's not in favour of their rights they can appeal," he said.

East Timor's president and prime minister are yet to respond to the verdicts.


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