Subject: SMH: Officer at centre of Timor violence in mass jailbreak

Also Howard vows thorough investigation of East Timor prison break

Sydney Morning Herald

Officer at centre of Timor violence in mass jailbreak

Lindsay Murdoch in Dili

August 31, 2006

ALFREDO REINADO, the swaggering military police officer blamed for plunging East Timor into chaos, has escaped from Dili's main jail with 55 other prisoners, including police accused of serious crimes during the violence in May.

Scores of Australian and Portuguese police rushed to the jail in the suburb of Becora after the dramatic mass breakout late yesterday. The escape has created a new crisis for international security forces in East Timor, who have been struggling to curb gang violence.

Reinado has become a cult hero for some East Timor youth since the 39-year-old Australian-trained major ordered his men to open fire on government troops on Dili's outskirts on May 23.

No one was hurt in the escape. A Timorese security guard at the jail said "they walked out through the front door". An Australian policeman refused to give details. "It's still sketchy - its mayhem in there," he said.

East Timor's Prime Minister, Jose Ramos Horta, said two weeks ago after visiting the jail - where New Zealand forces have been deployed - that security should be improved.

Reinado had been detained by Australian soldiers in Dili on July 26 on charges of illegally possessing weapons. He was angered by his arrest and refused to sign court papers. A judge ordered that he be remanded in custody with eight of his men.

Paulo Remedios, one of Reinado's lawyers, said last night that he had raised the subject of security at the jail, which houses about 200 inmates, with authorities on Monday at Reinado's request.

"Threats have been made against Alfredo and he was taking them seriously," Mr Remedios said.

"He told me of a plan to snatch him from the jail and to take him out of Dili on a boat - that was the rumour that my client heard," he said. Mr Remedios said Reinado's concerns about being kidnapped had been recorded in court documents.

Mr Remedios said he was shocked and surprised Reinado, who earlier yesterday was visited by members of his family, had arranged his own escape without being forced.

"He was settled, his case was coming up," he said.

Another Dili lawyer, Benevidos Barros, also said last night that he had seen Reinado on Tuesday.

"He never said anything about planning to escape, but I can confirm he is no longer in Becora prison," Mr Barros said, adding that Reinado should give himself up to the President, Xanana Gusmao, who he respects, so he could pursue a claim for wrongful arrest.

Mr Barros said the arrest warrant used by the Australian soldiers to detain Reinado was not properly executed under existing laws in East Timor.

At the height of East Timor's crisis in May, Reinado declared war on the then prime minister, the embattled Mari Alkatiri, saying: "I don't care if I die tomorrow."

A charismatic braggard, Reinado was hailed as a hero, particularly in the west of the country, from where comes, for helping to bring about the Mr Alkatiri's downfall.


Associated Press

August 31, 2006

Howard vows thorough investigation of East Timor prison break

CANBERRA (AP) - The seemingly effortless escape of 57 inmates from a prison in East Timor, including a rebel soldier arrested earlier this year by Australian forces, will be thoroughly investigated, Australia's government said Thursday.

"It's more than disappointing, it's a matter of concern," Prime Minister John Howard told Sydney radio 2GB.

"It's a bit too early for me to make any judgments as to how this happened, but it is being very carefully investigated," he added.

The breakout occurred Wednesday when visitors created a distraction that allowed the fugitives to simply walk out of the front gate of the Becora Penitentiary in view of guards, the chief of international security forces in the country said.

Brig. Mick Slater, the Australian commander of forces sent to East Timor to restore peace after a breakdown in law and order earlier this year, said the international authorities were frustrated and disappointed with their local counterparts forallowing the prison break.

"The jail break appears to have been a fairly simple matter," Slater told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.The escaped inmates included rebel soldier Alfredo Reinado and some supporters involved in violence that wracked the country recently.

Howard said the Australian Defense Force, which has 1,300 troops in East Timor, was "hunting furiously for this man because it was largely through the terrific work of the ADF that he went into captivity."

Reinado was among 22 men arrested by Australian troops in July for illegal possession of firearms days after a weapons amnesty had expired.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said he will raise the issue with East Timorese President Xanana Gusmao, Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta and Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayudhaduring talks in Dili on Monday.

"We will be making a major effort to try to help the East Timorese in trying to apprehend all those who have escaped," Downer told reporters in Sydney.

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