15 July 2009

Ramos Horta's guard describes attacks

AAP July 14, 2009, 7:28 pm - When he saw East Timor's president fall to the ground, bleeding from multiple gunshot wounds, Pedro Soares opened fire.

Moments earlier, Second Sergeant Soares had been accompanying Jose Ramos Horta on a peaceful morning walk along Dili's beachfront. But as they returned to Ramos Horta's home, the shooting started.

In Dili District Court on Tuesday, Soares - one of about a dozen presidential security personnel on duty that day in 2008 - described the pandemonium that followed.

Soares took out his handgun and emptied it - seven bullets - on Ramos Horta's masked attacker as he and other rebels fled the scene. But every shot missed its mark.

He raced to the president's aid. He pressed a handkerchief against a gaping bullet wound in Ramos Horta's abdomen in an effort to stop the blood.

A few moments later, another guard came to tend to Ramos Horta. Soares and another guard ran inside the president's house to get more guns.

When he came back outside, he saw two men - who he later recognised as rebel leader Alfredo Reinado and offsider Leopoldino - dead on the ground.

He raced past their corpses, to the road and up the hill, after the other rebels, but failed to catch up with them.

Sitting in the witness dock, Soares was surrounded by most of the 27 men and one woman - Australian Angelita Pires - accused of organising and carrying out the February 11, 2008 attack on Ramos Horta, and a separate attack on Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao.

The man accused of pulling the trigger on Ramos Horta - Marcelo Caetano - was among those in court.

But Soares said he could not identify Ramos Horta's attacker because he had been wearing a mask.

Pires, a 43-year-old dual citizen of Australia and East Timor, was Reinado's lover at the time of the dramatic attacks.

Prosecutors allege she was an "indirect author" of the attacks because she convinced Reinado to carry them out.

On Monday, the court heard Pires told Reinado to go to Dili to "kill two dogs" the day before the attacks.

Pires denies any involvement. If convicted, she faces a long prison sentence.

Ramos Horta spent weeks recovering in a Darwin hospital after the attack, which left him critically wounded.

Gusmao escaped the attack unhurt.

The trial, before a panel of three judges, continues.

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