06 March 2010

Attack on Timorese President Unsolved

by Lindsay Murdoch The Age DILI: Who shot the President and the rebel leader? Three Dili District Court judges have sentenced 24 rebels to jail terms of up to 16 years but their verdicts have raised more questions than they answered about the attacks on East Timor's top two political leaders on February 11, 2008.

The judges said after hearing five months of evidence that Marcelo Caetano, the rebel accused of shooting the President, Jose Ramos-Horta, twice in the back, did not do it.

They accepted the evidence of Australian Federal Police officers who examined bullet fragments were taken from Mr Ramos-Horta during surgery in Darwin that they did not come from Caetano's automatic weapon.

Only hours before the judges delivered their verdicts to a packed court on Wednesday, Mr Ramos-Horta said there was no doubt Caetano was the shooter, although he had earlier insisted he was not.

Mr Ramos-Horta said he had subsequently had a ''flashback'' to that day. He said Caetano had made a tearful confession to him and had apologised, saying he did not intend to kill him. But the judges accepted Caetano's protestation of innocence.

The judges said that all nine of the rebels who went to the President's house, including Caetano, ''acted in concert and collaboration'' to kill Mr Ramos-Horta, for which Caetano was jailed for 16 years. But they said it was not known which one fired the shots that almost killed him.

Buried in a long judgement are the judges' findings that the official version of how the rebel leader, Alfredo Reinado, and one of his men, Leopoldino Eposto, were killed at the President's house did not happen.

They said that based on the evidence, Francisco Marcal, a security guard at Mr Ramos-Horta's house, did not kill the two men from a distance, as he had claimed.

Government ministers still insist that that is what happened. But the court had heard that AFP ballistics tests showed Reinado and Esposto were shot dead by two different weapons.

Forensic analysis pointed to the shots being fired at close range, which suggests execution. Neither of the weapons used was the one that Mr Marcal testified he was carrying.

The judges condemned the rebels who went to the President's home fully armed. All were sentenced to 16 years' jail. They also condemned a second group of 11 rebels that ambushed the Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmao, the same day. They received an average of 10 years' jail.

Lawyers for the rebels intend to appeal against the verdicts and sentences.


Who shot Jose Ramos-Horta twice in the back?

Court found Marcelo Caetano, the rebel accused of firing the shots, did not do it.

Who shot Alfredo Reinado and Leopoldino Esposto?

Court found the guard Francisco Marcal did not fire fatal shots at rebels, as he claimed. The rebels were killed with different weapons, neither of which was Marcal's.

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