Subject: AU: I'll give up if PM goes, says Reinado

I'll give up if PM goes, says Reinado

Mark Dodd September 25, 2006

AUSTRALIAN-TRAINED East Timorese army rebel Alfredo Reinado has broken more than a week of silence to proclaim his innocence of charges that he fomented political violence.

From his hideout in the country's remote central highland, Major Reinado told The Australian yesterday he would only consider turning himself in if there were a leadership change in Dili. He said he did not trust the intentions of interim Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta and called for the restoration of democracy in East Timor and a new government "that would serve the people".

Major Reinado, who led a mass prison breakout with 56 other inmates from Dili's Becora jail on August 30, said he was still being chased by UN police.

A secretive network of supporters was on hand to alert him if danger was close, he said.

Australian Federal Police serving under UN command in Dili have been trying to apprehend Major Reinado, but say their numbers are spread too thin and that they lack sufficient resources to do the job.

Major Reinado denied being in contact with President Xanana Gusmao since breaking out of prison, although he said he stayed in touch with the so-called petitioners, a group of former soldiers seeking military reform whose cause he supports.

In a telephone interview kept deliberately short due to concerns of electronic eavesdropping by Australian security services, Major Reinado angrily rejected the criminal charges he faced in connection with a fatal May 23 shooting incident.

He said the gun battle in which two people were killed, including a government soldier, had been provoked by the East Timor Defence Force, and he had only fired in self-defence.

"I was being attacked. I have the right of self-defence to protect myself and my men," Major Reinado said, referring to a small group of armed police paramilitaries who were with him during the firefight.

Arrested in Dili by Australian soldiers on July 25, Major Reinado was later charged with attempted murder and armed revolution, charges he claims were concocted by a corrupt and politically influenced judiciary.

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