NIGEL ADLAM March 5th, 2010 THE Darwin barristers who won a "not guilty" verdict for Angelita Pires on a charge of plotting to kill East Timor President Jose Ramos Horta were still revelling in their historic triumph yesterday.
Consular officials said it was the first time in living memory that an Australian facing a serious charge in an Asian court had been freed.
Peter Maley and Jon Tippett QC fought the case for seven months.
They commuted to Dili until the verdict was read out by a judge over two hours on Wednesday.
"Once you are charged and put before an Asian court you are highly unlikely to be found not guilty," Mr Maley said. "In fact, this is the first time anybody can recall an Australian going free."
Ms Pires faced 20 years in prison if convicted. Jail conditions in Dili are notoriously grim and her family feared she would not survive long inside.
More than 20 co-offenders were sentenced to jail terms of nine to 16 years.
Mr Maley said there was "pandemonium" when the not guilty verdict was delivered.
"Angelita was crying, her relatives were sobbing."
Mr Maley said he was proud that the Federal Government had entrusted Territorians to defend Ms Pires.
"They didn't look interstate - they chose two Territory boys."
Ms Pires, 44, had been accused of being the indirect author of an assassination plot against Mr Ramos Horta by slain rebel leader Reinado.
The Dili District Court found there was insufficient evident to convict her.