06 January 2009

Lover of slain East Timor rebel leader 'left in limbo'

Lindsay Murdoch, Darwin 6 January 2009 - ANGELITA Pires, the former lover of slain East Timorese rebel leader Alfredo Reinado, says authorities in Dili are depriving her of her freedom because her case is too political.

"I've heard that politically they don't know what to do with me — there is now a lot of support for me on the ground because people are starting to understand the truth and are asking questions," Ms Pires told The Age.

Ms Pires, 38, said she is fed up with being held in limbo, unable to leave East Timor, 11 months after attacks in which President Jose Ramos Horta was seriously wounded and Reinado shot dead.

"All I want to do is to leave," Ms Pires said by telephone from Dili, where a court has confiscated her Australian passport, pending an investigation into whether she played any role in the events that led to the attacks.

"It's going from bad to the ridiculous," she said.

"I have come to the stage of my life where I am fed up with being in limbo — is there anything to charge me with?" she said.

Ms Pires said until Mr Ramos Horta apologises and "says what he said about me was completely wrong, I will not feel safe in Dili".

She is living in a shack in a Dili suburb, unable to get access to her bank accounts, which authorities have frozen.

Her food is provided by her family.

In Australia, Ms Pires' brother, Antonio, and mother, Maria Francisca Pires, have told Australia's Foreign Minister Stephen Smith that she has not received fair representation in East Timor.

"You and DFAT (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) have made it clear to us that we, as migrant Australians, are not afforded the same rights as born Australians," they said in a letter dated December 25.

Mr Ramos Horta told diplomats in a new year's address that the motive for Reinado leading a group of armed men to his house remained unknown to him. "The trial of those involved directly or indirectly in the February 11 attack on me and the Prime Minister might reveal more facts," he said.

In his first public comments after being shot, Mr Ramos Horta said Ms Pires was among several people who had "manipulated and influenced" Reinado before the attacks.

In his new year's speech, Mr Ramos Horta said it was feared at the time that the country would slide into civil war.

But he said: "My near-death, like the near death of Mahatma Gandhi when he went on a long hunger strike, pushed back the people from the brink of a wider conflict."

Ms Pires said she had been warned by "high people" to stop speaking with journalists about her plight. An application she made to a court in Dili to be able to travel to Darwin for 10 days to see her family for Christmas — and for medical reasons after losing a baby she had conceived with Reinado — was refused.

Photo: Glenn Campbell

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