Tue, Jul 14, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Twin assassination attempt trial opens in East Timor

AFP , DILI

Two former rebel soldiers are taken to court as the trial of 28 people charged with the attempted murder of East Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao opened in Dili yesterday.

PHOTO: EPA

The trial of 28 people accused of trying to kill the president and prime minister of East Timor in a failed twin assassination attempt opened yesterday under tight security.

East Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta required emergency surgery after being shot multiple times outside his home in the attack in Feb. 11 last year. Gunmen also opened fire on the car of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, who escaped unhurt.

The suspects, including former soldiers and an Australian citizen, appeared in a court in Dili on charges ranging from attempted murder to conspiracy to murder over the attacks.

Rebel leader Alfredo Reinado was killed in the assault on Ramos-Horta’s home. His girlfriend Angelita Pires, an East Timor-born Australian, is accused of taking part in the attack.

“Angelita Pires supplied clothes and medicine to Alfredo Reinado and his friends,” a prosecutor told the court.

He also said she gave them “cigarettes which can reduce fear” — a possible reference to narcotics — and encouraged Reinado to kill the country’s leaders.

Pires told reporters outside the courtroom before the trial began that she would “fight for justice.”

In an interview with Australia’s ABC TV: she said: “I’ll never plead guilty and I’ll never accept a pardon. Why should I? … Accept a pardon for what? For something I haven’t committed?

State prosecutors began the trial by ejecting Pires’ two lawyers, an Australian and a Brazilian, forcing them into the public gallery.

Her coaccused are a group of soldiers who deserted en masse in 2006 and their commander, Gastao Salsinha, who took over from Reinado as the rebel chief.

“Gastao Salsinha was the one that launched the ambush on February 11, 2008 and the shooting at the prime minister’s convoy,” the indictment says.

Salsinha denied the allegations in court.

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