President pardons rebels who shot him
August 25, 2010
THE President of East Timor, Jose Ramos-Horta, has pardoned 23 rebels involved in attacks in 2008 during which he was shot in the back and almost died.
Dr Ramos-Horta survived only after being flown to Australia for emergency surgery. The newspaper Tempo Semanal quoted Dr Ramos-Horta as saying he was releasing the rebels because they were also victims.
The rebels include Marcelo Caetano, who was sentenced in March this year to 16 years' jail on charges relating to the shooting outside Dr Ramos-Horta's residence on Dili's outskirts just after dawn on February 11, 2008.
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Gastao Salsinha, the second-in-command to Alfredo Reinado, the Australian-trained renegade military officer who was killed in the attacks, is also being pardoned. He had been sentenced to 10 years' and eight months' in jail for his role in the attacks on Dr Ramos-Horta and the Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmao, who escaped unhurt.
The pardons were published in the government Gazette on Friday but the rebels remain in jail awaiting a court order for their release to be issued. They are expected to be released within days.
Dr Ramos-Horta's decision to pardon the rebels will renew criticism of a so-called culture of impunity in the nation. Last year the government released Maternus Bere, a former pro-Indonesian militia leader who had been indicted by a United Nations crimes unit over the massacre of hundreds of people in a church in Suai in 1999.
Mr Bere was allowed to return to Indonesian West Timor, where he is a government official, prompting criticism from inside and outside East Timor, including from United Nations human rights officials. Indonesia had demanded Mr Bere's release without charge.
Three judges in Dili District Court who found the rebels guilty in March said they had ambushed Mr Gusmao but had not intended to kill him, only to destabilise East Timor.
Dr Ramos-Horta told the Herald this year that Caetano had admitted to him that he had shot him, and had apologised, saying he had not intended to kill him.
But in court Caetano maintained he was not the shooter.
The judges found his automatic weapon was not the weapon that had shot Dr Ramos-Horta, contradicting the official version of events.
Angelita Pires, the Australian lover of Reinado, was acquitted in March of conspiring to kill Dr Ramos-Horta and Mr Gusmao. Ms Pires now lives in Darwin, where she is planning to write a book about her life with Reinado.
Dr Ramos-Horta rejected claims that Reinado was lured to his residence where assassins were waiting to execute him, saying ''there are lunatics who make this kind of conspiracy theory''.
But investigators have been unable to prove why Reinado led the rebels to Dili from his mountain base the day of the attacks.
❏ A group of Australian defence personnel have left East Timor after a two-week visit providing humanitarian aid on the final stopover of the annual US-led Pacific Partnership mission.
Under the program, a team of US and Australian doctors and other specialists spend three months aboard the US Navy hospital ship Mercy, performing humanitarian, medical and engineering tasks. Engineers painted, retiled and reroofed a school in Dili with their US and Timorese counterparts.
Medical and dental personnel conducted 174 surgeries aboard USNS Mercy and treated about 19,000 patients at medical and dental clinics.
source: The Sydney Morning Herald