11 June 2012

Timor Justice Minister considers appeal

11 June 2012 ABC Radio Australia
Connect Asia Timor Justice Minister considers appeal - East Timor's former Justice Minister has two weeks to decide whether she will appeal against a conviction for misadministration of funds, or else face jail.

On Friday, Lucia Lobato was sentenced to five years prison, but was found not guilty of three other charges including corruption, the abuse of power and falsification of documents.

Ms Lobato's lawyer says the prosecution presented no evidence to support the charge and he will encourage her to appeal within the 15 days period allowed for lodging a challenge.

Correspondent: Karon Snowdon

Speaker: Cancio Xavier, lawyer for East Timor's former Justice Minister Lucia Lobato

SNOWDON: In the months leading up to East Timor's presidential election a scandal erupted that shocked this small island state.

It was used by critics to accuse the government of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao of gross corruption.

Justice Minister Lucia Lobato was suspended by the parliament because she was facing serious charges.

Thirty-six of the 65 members of Parliament voted to suspend her.

Now she faces the prospect of five years in jail, the mid point between a possible two to eight year sentence.

The court found her guilty of one of the four charges against her -- the misappropriation of Ministry funds.

Lawyer Cancio Xavier says the sentence which includes a hefty fine is a heavy one, and was arrived at he says, without evidence.

XAVIER: No corruption and no power abuse, and then no falsified documents. But during the court process, we never got to any evidence.

SNOWDON: Lucia Lobato was implicated in a case of collusion involving government tenders for contracts worth one million dollars. Ms Lobato was elected to East Timor's first Parliament in 2001 and appointed Finance Minister in 2007. She is a member of the Social Democratic Party and was the sole female candidate in East Timor's 2007 Presidential election.

Cancio Xavier says Ms Lobato is traumatised by the case and doesn't want to appeal. Her lawyer hopes to convince her to change her mind within the 15 day limit to avoid jail.

XAVIER: Today, maybe she's traumatised regarding this conviction, so she said to us, she doesn't want to make an appeal. But we have advised her after today, because when we make appeal fifteen days later, when we appeal against this decision. Automatically after the fifteen days, she'll go to jail.

SNOWDON: And would you be confident of winning the appeal?

XAVIER: Yes, of course, of course!

SNOWDON: Cancio Xavier, Lawyer for East Timor's Justice Minister Lucia Lobato,

Another five government ministers have been investigated by East Timor's Anti-Corruption Commission.
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