Subject: T Post/Lusa: Dili District Court orders protective custody of a Portuguese citizen

The following is JSMP’s translation of a Portuguese language article on the LUSA page (6) of Timor Post 20 November 2002. The international monitors referred to in the article are not JSMP monitors, although JSMP was present at the hearing.

Dili District Court orders the protective custody of a Portuguese citizen.

Dili, Timor Post - November 20th, 2002

The Dili District Court ordered a 30-day protective custody of a Portuguese citizen who is charged with illegal possession of a gun and of causing physical harm. That decision has already been criticized by international experts.

Rui Fernando Pereira, 21 years old, was arrested last Saturday after he had shot one of his employees at one of his family owned coffee shops in Dili. The case has being aggravated after the victim ­who was slightly wounded in her leg- changed her original statement.

Right after the shooting ­which according to the accused was “an accident,”- the victim reported to the police that her employer had not had criminal intentions. However, in her second statement, she alleged that the accused had previously threatened her.

The Portuguese citizen has been in East Timor since February, and was brought before the Investigating Judge Joao Carvalho. Following the requirement of the Prosecutor in the case, Mr. Amandio Benevides, the magistrate ordered the protective custody of Rui Pereira until the investigation is finalized.

The Investigating Judge rejected several petitions of conditional release made by the defendant’s lawyer, Mr. Benevides Correira Barros, who had based his requests on grounds of the lack of criminal record of his client, his willingness to post bail, and that he was not a threat or danger.

Also rejected was the defendant’s lawyer’s argument that Mr. Rui Pereira could be subject to physical reprisals if he were detained at Becora prison in Dili.

The wife of the accused, Odete Costa, disagreed with the judicial decision, saying to the Lusa Agency that she feared for her husband’s safety if he were detained in Dili prison.

The rest of Rui Pereira’s family coffee-shops and business properties, such as City Café ­opened right after the violence in 1999- have been closed since Saturday as a result of threats.

Police sources confirmed that disciplinary charges had been filed against a police officer who was alleged to have pointed a gun at Rui Pereira while he was in detention at the Police Station.

The same police source pointed out that a letter has been sent to the Director of Becora prison, where Rui Pereira is detained at the moment, in which it has been requested that the Portuguese man be kept on his own in a cell for security reasons.

As of today, it is not possible to confirm whether that request has being granted.

According to observers in Dili, the Court decision reveals that the judicial system in East Timor is still weak. Included in the difficulties are the lack of communication among the players in the process, and the apparent lack of professional training of the Timorese judges.

Today’s hearing was interrupted several times in order to find a translator who was able to speak Portuguese, and once found, the translator made mistakes to the extent of omitting certain elements of Rui Pereira’s statement. International judicial experts also criticized the Court decision saying that Timorese judges often “abuse” the use of protective custody. “Many times they consider protective custody as sentences,” said an international jurist.

There was also criticism of the fact that the hearing became a fast track judgment that included debates between Prosecutors and the Defendant’s Lawyers, and that the Investigating Judge entertained questions that “went beyond the scope of this kind of proceedings.”

“It is also unusual that the judge had ordered a protective custody and had the accused’s passport retained”,

Other judicial sources suggested that it is grave that the judge in the case had stated that he would make “an example of the case”

In addition, court observers discussed whether the nationality of Rui Pereira would affect the case. “The judge in this case was the only one in the Dili District who refused to attend a Portuguese course,” a source said.

The case is causing discomfort in the Portuguese community in Dili. Some Portuguese citizens have raised concerns for the lack of protection that the East Timorese judicial system provides them.

At the same time, part of the Timorese population is behaving in discriminatory manner against Portuguese nationals.

This situation is taking place against a background of an increased crime level and a total disrespect of authority. Portuguese and other foreigners admitted that they live “more than ever” in fear.

As a Portuguese man who has been in Timor since October 2000 said to the Lusa Agency, “I never felt such apprehension in moving around Dili as I do now.”

The Rui Pereira case is going to be followed closely by the Portuguese Embassy in Dili.

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