07 August 2009

UCAN: Church says rebels' trial must provide true justice

TIMOR LESTE Church says rebels' trial must provide true justice July 29, 2009 DILI (UCAN) - The Timor Leste Church hopes justice will be done in the trial of 28 people accused of trying to kill the country's president and prime minister in 2008.

President Jose Ramos-Horta required emergency surgery after being shot outside his home, but Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao escaped unhurt when gunmen opened fire on his car.

The first trial sessions were held July 13-16 under tight security in a Dili court.

The accused are Gastao Salsinha, other former Timor Leste soldiers-turned-rebels and Angelita Pires, an East Timor-born Australian citizen accused of masterminding the attacks. Charges range from attempted murder to conspiracy to murder.

Prosecutors allege that Pires planned the assassination attempts. She was in a relationship with rebel leader Alfredo Reinado, who was killed in the attack on President Ramos-Horta.

Pires strongly denies the charges and insists she is the victim of a conspiracy.

Salsinha took over as rebel chief after Reinado's death and is accused of leading the attack on Gusmao. He also has pleaded not guilty.

The attacks on the country's leaders came against the background of lingering Communal violence, which erupted in mid-2006 following the dismissal of more than one-third of the country's army. The dismissed soldiers, from the western part of the country, claim they were victims of discrimination. Salsinha was among them.

Bishop Alberto Ricardo da Silva of Dili, in his Sunday Mass homily on July 19 at Motael church, said the Church believes justice should be seen to be done.

"People of this country want to live in peace, and justice is the path to the truth. If there is no justice, there will be no progress in the development," the bishop said.

Father Jose Maia, parish priest of Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Dili, told UCA News the trial is very sensitive and could have a great impact.

He raised the possibility of Salsinha revealing a political plot behind the mass dismissal of soldiers in 2006.

"It was merely politics. Actually there was no split in westerners and easterners," he told UCA News. "People from east and west are all Timorese. Culturally they are family. It is just politics of power that was the motive."

Based on testimony at the trial, he said, some political leaders "might lose their power, and Gastao Salsinha and his group might become heroes of the people."

Image added by ETLJB: Dili District Court

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