21 November 2017

The Guerra Case - Contempt of the East Timorese Judiciary from as far as Europe

ETLJB 20 November 2017 Two Portuguese nationals, Tiago and Fong Fong Guerra, were convicted by a court in Dili of criminal offences under East Timorese law.

They apparently committed further offences when they unlawfully absconded from the jurisdiction last week and fled across the Timor Sea and are now in detention under Australian law.

Now, they will face the consequences of breaking Australian law as well. There is no extradition treaty between Australia and East Timor so it will be a problematical process for the East Timorese authorities to regain custody of these two outlaws and ensure that they face the judicial processes to the end in East Timor.

Aside from those legal problems, there has been a chorus of criticism and disrespect for the decision of the East Timorese court from the convicts themselves, Portuguese citizens, no less than former President Jose Ramos Horta himself, and now, representatives from the European Parliament.



No one has voiced support for the judges' decision or sought to refute the allegations that have been made about the competency of East Timorese judges and the legal system of East Timor. The Court can not speak for itself and it is high time that this interference with the independence of the judiciary stop and all efforts made by all stakeholders to make sure that these two persons face justice.

The Decision
The panel of judges at the Dili district court found the couple guilty and sentenced them to eight years in prison for embezzlement, ordering them to pay the state $859,000 - the amount they embezzled. The court found them not guilty of two other charges: money laundering and forgery.

"The accused damaged the finances and the economy ... and defrauded the state of Timor," the presiding judge said. "They acted freely, deliberately and consciously, knowing that their conduct was not allowed in law and that they were criminally punishable."

In a message emailed to Lusa, the couple said they were "shocked" by the verdict, in a case that they described as a "lie" that had already stolen three years of their lives and those of their children, as well as "the confidence of the people who love" East Timor.

The Convicts
The Guerras themselves have demonstrated, by their conduct in fleeing the jurisdiction, a complete contempt for the rule of law in East Timor and a complete disrespect for the Courts and judicial processes. They should be handed over to Interpol for return to the Timorese jurisdiction to face the law; once they have served their time for violations of Australian law.

Ramos Horta
Jose Ramos Horta was reported in The Portugal following the conviction of the Guerras as saying that "It's a very sad day for justice in East Timor," Ramos Horta said in a message sent to Lusa. "I still believe that the appeal court will restore justice."

Maun Bo'ot Horta knows that he should not be saying anything about a matter that is before the Courts. He has attacked the independence and the competence of the judges' and the integrity of the decision. His comments are highly prejudicial and show a complete contempt for the judicial process. Jose should shut up. Alternatively, he should at the most be saying "Let Justice run its course. I can't comment any further".

Portuguese Citizens and The Portuguese Parliament
Family and supporters have campaigned on behalf of the pair since their arrest, claiming Guerra has been subject to unhygienic conditions, a lack of medical care and a lack of justice. A petition, reportedly signed by more than 3,500 people, was delivered to the Portuguese government last month, calling on it to extradite the couple from Timor-Leste.

The petition claims that "the Government of Portugal urge the Government of Timor-Leste to have this case transferred to Portugal, since the Timorese judicial system has proven incapable of dealing with a case like this". And further: "All the human rights of these Portuguese citizens have been violated in Timor-Leste...." Apparently, this petition was presented to the Portuguese parliament by an organ of the Parliament itself.

How disgraceful. No juridical analysis, no grounds demonstrating incompetence of the Timorese judges, and no factual or legal arguments advanced to support these outrageous allegations against the East Timorese judges.

It includes a despicable emotional reference to the separation of the criminals from their children. That has never been a defence to a crime or sentencing.

The European Parliament
The latest reported intervention has been effected by Members of the European Parliament. Luciano Alvarez writes:

"Eleven members of the European Parliament, of various nationalities and political families, including three Portuguese, sent a letter to [the] head of European Union Diplomacy, ...... asking that, in the face of poor professional conduct prosecution and judges of Timor-Leste " the EU intensify support for justice in this country."

The correspondence also requested contact with the the Timor-Leste authorities in order to to ensure that the appeal brought by the couple corresponds "in a credible way to international standards." The best way to achieve this, they add, "would be to ensure that judges of the Timorese Court of Appeals are assisted by experienced international judges" in this matter.

The Ambassador
Portugal's ambassador to Timor-Leste, Manuel Gonçalves de Jesus, has been accused of being suspected of authorising the Guerras to obtain new identification documents, which had been withdrawn including passports when Tiago and Fong Fong Guerra were found guilty and then convicted for crimes committed (embezzlement) in Timor-Leste, thereby enabling them to arrive  properly documented in Australia on board a previously-arranged transportation to Australia. [Source: https://timoragora.blogspot.hk/2017/11/embaixador-de-portugal-em-timor-leste.html]

Utter Contempt of the Courts of East Timor
All of these parties, the convicts, the citizens and institutions of the Portuguese parliament, the Portuguese Ambassador to East Timor, the members of the European Parliament, past President and national hero, Jose Ramos Horta, have shown the most improper regard and contempt for the East Timorese judges, prosecutors, and legal processes. They have all undertaken the most scurrilous conduct in relation to the judiciary in East Timor. That should be noted. It should be a matter of grave concern to all jurists everywhere.

See also on ETLJB
Government ensures compliance with the law in the case of Portuguese convicts in TimorTheir conviction


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