19 February 2010

Prosecutors seek big jail terms for EastTimor rebels

(AFP) – February 18, 2010 DILI ­ East Timorese prosecutors Thursday sought up to 20 years' jail for 28 people including an Australian citizen charged over the attempted assassination of the president and prime minister in 2008.

Rebel gunmen opened fire on President Jose Ramos-Horta outside his Dili home in the February 11 attack, leaving him critically wounded. Gunmen also shot at the car of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, who escaped unhurt.

Rebel leader Alfredo Reinado was killed in the attack on Ramos-Horta and his followers subsequently surrendered.

Prosecutor Felismeno Cardoso said Reinado's girlfriend, Angelita Pires, an East Timor-born Australian, was a key player in the plot.

"In her conversation with Alfredo's subordinate, Angelita said that the two men, the president and prime minister, must be killed and the murders made to look like a coup," he told the Dili court.

"Angelita had great influence on Alfredo Reinado and he trusted her more than anyone."

He said Pires had made several trips to the northern Australian city of Darwin to raise funds for Reinado's group.

"Based on the East Timorese criminal code, these defendants must be jailed for 10 to 20 years," he said.

Peres told reporters outside the court the allegations were "completely baseless from beginning to end".

"None of it's true, too many lies," she said, adding: "I'm not guilty."

Her co-accused include ex-soldiers from a group of 600 who deserted in 2006, triggering fighting that killed some 40 people and forced 100,000 from their homes.

The death of the charismatic Reinado, coupled with public distress over Ramos-Horta's brush with death, helped bring an end to the rebellion.

Nobel laureate Ramos-Horta spent weeks recovering in an Australian hospital before returning to East Timor to a hero's welcome.

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