19 February 2009

Australian citizen Angelita Pires trapped in legal limbo in East Timor

Australian Broadcasting Corporation The 7:30 Report Broadcast: 18/02/2009 Reporter: Murray McLaughlin - An Australian citizen is trapped in a legal limbo one year after the shooting of East Timor’s President, Jose Ramos Horta. Angelita Pires was the lover of rebel leader Alfredo Reinado, who was killed in the attack and since then she has been unable to return to Australia. As yet no charges have been laid and the Australian Government has threatened to lodge a protest about her treatment.


KERRY O’BRIEN, PRESENTER: It's a year now since the attempted assassination of East Timor's President Jose Ramos Horta.

Yet no charges have been laid against the rebel soldiers who carried out the attack, nor against an Australian citizen who was identified as a Mastermind by the President after his recovery.

Born in East Timor, Angelita Pires was the lover of rebel leader Alfredo Reinado, who was killed in the attack and since then she's been able unable to return to Australia.

The Australian Government has threatened to lodge a protest about her treatment.

Murray McLaughlin reports from East Timor.

MURRAY MCLAUGHLIN, REPORTER: One year and one week after he nearly died from a gunshot wound, East Timor's President, Jose Ramos Horta, is back in the saddle.

At the end of official talks in New Zealand this week, he toured a vineyard in Auckland yesterday before flying off to New York for more business.

JOSE RAMOS HORTA, EAST TIMOR PRESIDENT: I am doing very well; physically almost completely recovered. I'm no longer taking any pain killers; all the medication is gone.

MURRAY MCLAUGHLIN: When he returned home to a huge welcome in April last year, the East Timorese President was still contemplating why he'd been shot at his home in Dili on February the 11th last year.

Jose Ramos Horta had spent more than nine weeks in Darwin recovering from his gunshot wound.

In an interview with the 7:30 Report two days after his triumphant return, Mr Ramos Horta accused an Australian woman of knowing why she he'd been targeted.

JOSE RAMOS HORTA (7.30 Report, April 19 2008): The answer has to be given by Ms Angelita Pires, the lover and fiancé of Mr Alfredo Reinado, because she is a very manipulative individual; the worst negative element in the entire process.

MURRAY MCLAUGHLIN: Angelita Pires, 42-years-old, is an Australian citizen who fled with her family to Darwin from East Timor after the invasion by Indonesia in 1975.

She was living here in East Timor at the time of the attack on Mr Ramos Horta, and since then she's not been able to return to her family in Australia because she's suspected of being conspirator.

ANGELITA PIRES: It was unbelievable. I thought this is a terrible mistake. The public accusations and the persistence and this... the rumours, the lies, the public trial, you know, by people like the President.

MURRAY MCLAUGHLIN: As President Ramos Horta fought for his life in Darwin hospital, Angelita Pires attended the funeral in Dili of the rebel's leader, Major Alfredo Reinado, who was killed during the attack at the President's house.

Angelita Pires says she was pregnant to Reinado when he was killed, but lost the baby soon after.

Seven months before the attack, the President had ordered international troops to stop hunting for Reinado and his men because he wanted to talk them into surrender.

Mr Ramos Horta still blames Angelita Pires for the failure of those talks.

JOSE RAMOS HORTA: I'm not saying that she was directly implicated or planning of assassination of me, or went to my house.

But she was always the obstacle, always undermining every peace effort, always poisoning Alfredo's mind. So that's the problem.

Not that she was materially involved... and if she's innocent, I hope she's set free and resumes her life.

MURRAY MCLAUGHLIN: But more than one year after the shootings, Angelita Pires remains in legal limbo; not officially detained but unable to leave East Timor while prosecutors decide if she'll be indicted.

Supported by sympathetic locals, she lives in this small house in an outer suburb of Dili.

ANGELITA PIRES: I can't sleep at somebody else's house; I have to stay here. If I go anywhere I have to report that to my lawyer, who has to make a request to the judge.

I can't believe leave the country. They took all my documentation. I don't have any ID on me.

MURRAY MCLAUGHLIN: East Timor's Prosecutor General is handing the criminal actions which will flow from the events of 11th of February last year. But he is not expecting to lay indictments until the first week of March.

LONGUINHOS MONTEIRO, EAST TIMOR PROSECUTOR GENERAL: It's not like a normal murder case or robbery.

This case is very complicated because it's related to the various circumstances, difficulties to get some source on the beginning of the process.

We lost a lot of times because, you know, the rebel groups are in jungles.

MURRAY MCLAUGHLIN: The Prosecutor General’s investigation keeps extending. Only last week did the soldiers who comprised the President's body guard on the day of the attack at his house agree to hand over their weapons.

That enabled Australian Federal Police, who are helping with the investigation, to conduct the last round of ballistics tests.

JOSE RAMOS HORTA: There were mixed samples of weapons. Because Mr Reinado's group and his men took weapons from the Army. There was no careful identification of the Army and the bullets.

MURRAY MCLAUGHLIN: The Australian Government says it's concerned that the investigation's dragging on.

Two weeks ago the Australian embassy in Dili told Angelita Pires it would register strong concern about the delays.

And if further delays develop the embassy said it would be asked to allow her to return to Australia to be with her family, provided she undertook to come back for any court hearing.

JOSE RAMOS HORTA: She was involved with Alfredo, she cannot complain because prosecutors are sorry you cannot leave the country, you have to stay here. Well, that normally happens with many other people who are under investigation.

MURRAY MCLAUGHLIN: But it now seems unlikely that Angelita Pires will be facing any serious charges. The Australian embassy has told us she could be charged with being a low level conspirator with the events of the 11th of February last year.

ANGELITA PIRES: I have gone from being the author, the mastermind, to being not the big person they're after. It will be in terms of low level conspiracy; that's a very ambiguous term.

I see this as a way of washing their hands because all my right were violated. On top of that, I lost our child.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Murray McLaughlin reporting from East Timor.


Anonymous said...

In my opinion Australia should stay out of this matter, because weather Angelita was directly or indirectly involve first of all she is a Timorese breed and born, she is only an Australian by choice and she went back because she wanted too. Now that she couse the damage she has to suffer the consequences!Australia has no MORAL to treat East Timor of any kind because Australia is sistematicaly violate all the international rule of low. STOP be a Serif on the region.

Anonymous said...

I once was a neighbour of "Angie" as we called her. Angie was a dreamer and constantly predicted one day she would be President of East Timor. At times she could be interesting and quite smart. I was sorry to learn of her involvement and frankly surprised that she was the lover of a Timorese man as her loyalty was to Portugal and only dated Portuguese Policemen. She was hoping to marry and live in Portugal and visited Portugal several times to meet potential mother in laws. Even if released I don't think she will reside in Australia as she is timorese through and through and loves ET I know she comes from good stock and has a wonderful family. I wish her well and hope she gets through this mess and learns a lesson from it. ET needs peace there's been enough suffering and bloodshed in recent years. It would have been much better if she used her talents in positive means.