20 November 2009

Call for photos at Timor 'plot' trial

LINDSAY MURDOCH November 20, 2009 - PROSECUTORS at the trial of Timorese-born Australian Angelita Pires have refused to release photographs of the body of her slain former lover Alfredo Reinado, which they have denied existed.

Jon Tippett, QC, representing Pires, says the 200 photographs are critical evidence indicating Reinado and one of his men were executed at close range at the home of East Timor President Jose Ramos Horta last February.

Mr Tippett told The Age he has arranged for a forensic scientist in Australia to examine powder burns from gunshot wounds visible in the photographs if the prosecution relents and releases the original photographs to East Timor's Dili District Court.

Copies of the photographs taken during an autopsy have been circulating in the East Timorese media for months. One shows Felismino Cardoso Garcia, one of the prosecutors at the trial, standing over the body in a group of eight people.

When Pires' lawyers filed a formal complaint and produced some of the media copies in court, Mr Garcia said they were not ''official'' and the prosecution had not been notified of their existence. Judges have yet to rule on the complaint.

Pires and 27 of Reinado's associates are facing numerous counts of conspiring or attempting to kill Mr Ramos Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao.

Pires denies the charges, saying she had nothing to do with the attacks in which Mr Ramos Horta was shot and seriously wounded; he recovered after being flown to Royal Darwin Hospital.

Mr Tippett said the powder burns support other evidence disproving the prosecution version of events that a presidential guard, Francisco Lino Marcal, shot both Reinado and his associate Leopoldino Exposto.

An Australian Federal Police ballistics report obtained by Pires' lawyers under a freedom of information request shows Reinado and Leopoldino were shot with different guns. Ballistic tests also showed that bullet fragments found in the two bodies were not from the type of weapon Marcal said he used to kill them.

Key witnesses have refused to appear at the trial, which began in July. Dr Ramos Horta and Mr Gusmao have refused to appear but have agreed to present evidence in writing.

Mr Tippett said: ''It is wrong, in our view, that these two important witnesses have decided to stand above and outside their country's judicial system.''

The trial continues.

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