Subject: AGE: Timor orders arrest of ex-minister

Also - Families of policemen killed in Dili demand justice

The Age

Timor orders arrest of ex-minister

Hamish McDonald, Dili June 21, 2006

EAST Timor's top prosecutor has ordered the arrest of dismissed interior minister Rogerio Lobato on charges of distributing high-powered police guns to an alleged political hit-squad.

The feared former minister had attempted to flee the country on Monday afternoon, high-level government sources said.

His name was on the passenger manifest of a regular Air North flight to Darwin, but it is believed he was unable to board because Canberra had blocked his entry to Australia.

East Timor's Prosecutor-General, Longinus Monteiro, yesterday issued an arrest warrant, charging the hot-tempered Lobato with issuing 17 assault rifles to a group of former anti-Indonesian guerillas linked to the ruling Fretilin party.

It was unclear yesterday whether Lobato had been arrested, with some rumours saying he had been taken to the city's Becora Prison. Officials would not confirm or deny he was there.

A servant at his ministerial villa said Lobato was in Dili, though his wife was in Portugal. Lobato was dismissed as interior minister three weeks ago after the 3500-member police force disintegrated and took sides in fighting between army factions.

The leader of the group, Vicente de Conceicao, told prosecutors at their mountain hide-out near Liquica that they were given the HK33 automatic rifles in early May by police acting on Lobato's orders.

On Monday night in an ABC Four Corners program, Mr Railos said he had been given orders on May 7 by Lobato, in the presence of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri, to eliminate political rivals.

But Dr Alkatiri yesterday indicated he would fight allegations that he was party to the distribution of weapons, and would resist growing calls for him to resign.

In interviews recorded at his office and due to be broadcast last night, Dr Alkatiri suggested the allegations were part of a set-up to force him out of office, sources in his office said.

As he gave the interview, a small but swelling crowd of young opposition activists began a three-day demonstration in front of the central government buildings, calling for the Prime Minister's dismissal.

Dr Alkatiri told the national broadcasters he had met Mr Railos, a delegate from Liquica, two or three times during the Fretilin congress here on May 17-19.

Mr Railos had told him Fretilin activists were being threatened by other groups in villages. Dr Alkatiri said he had suggested that Fretilin form "popular security" arrangements for themselves but should not be armed.

In a bizarre twist, Mr Railos telephoned Dr Alkatiri yesterday morning and said he wanted to surrender his guns to President Xanana Gusmao. Dr Alkatiri said he replied that the guns should be given immediately to the police or the Australian-led military force.

"He told Railos he should not allow himself to be used by other people to destroy Fretilin," the sources said.

Meanwhile, Australian soldiers and police are believed to have arrested a wanted rogue police commander, Abilio Mausoko, at a hotel close to the Australian and American embassies.

Earlier, a tip-off had led to a seizure of weapons, said to include 16 automatic rifles.

An Australian spokesman would only say that a wanted person had been arrested and would be charged with weapons-related offences.


ABC Transcripts (Australia)


June 19, 2006 Monday 8:28 AM AEST

Families of policemen killed in Dili demand justice

Anne Barker

TONY EASTLEY: While the streets might be safer and some of the rebel soldiers have surrendered their weapons, there's still a feeling in East Timor that justice has not been served.

At the weekend, there were emotional scenes in East Timor at the funerals of three of the 10 policemen shot dead last month in Dili.

Friends and relatives of the men say they want the serving army officers allegedly responsible for the shootings to be charged and tried.

From Dili, Anne Barker reports.

(Sound of chanting)

ANNE BARKER: Hundreds of people chanted prayers as they arrived for the separate funerals.

The three men were shot dead by army officers on May the 25th, in an apparent revenge attack for an earlier shooting by police.

They'd just surrendered their weapons, and were being escorted to safety, when they were gunned down in the middle of the road.

(Sound of chanting, priest saying rites)

As the Catholic Priest began his rites, women wailed in grief and men shook their fists in the air, demanding justice.

(Sound of weeping)

Among them was Jose dos Reis, whose 36-year-old son Pascoal Hornai de Carvalho was one of those killed.

(Sound of Jose Dos Reis speaking)

"I'm sad because he was my first son," he said, "and he was helping the family to survive."

A friend of the dead man, Alexandre de Araujo, says the community is outraged at the deaths of unarmed men.

"Pascoal was shot by the army officers simply because he was a policeman," he said. "We don't accept what the army has done - it's a crime. They must be tried, even the army leaders."

The United Nations has now launched a criminal investigation into the deaths, but it's too early to know if anyone will be charged or tried.

However, the UN's representative in East Timor, Sukehiro Hasegawa, says he's confident justice will be done. And he says investigators will stop at nothing and no one in their search for those behind the police officers' murders, even if it goes to the very top of East Timor's leadership.

SUKEHIRO HASEGAWA: But I assume that in view of the need, enormous need for investigations and also the legal process that has to go through, there is no doubt there will be international prosecutors who will be involved in that process.

TONY EASTLEY: Sukehiro Hasegawa, Ending that report from Anne Barker in Dili.

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