Subject: Charges against me dropped : Timor ex-PM
Charges against me dropped : Timor ex-PM
February 5, 2007 - 8:04PM
Former East Timorese prime minister Mari Alkatiri says prosecutors have dropped an investigation over allegations he ordered a hit squad to kill political opponents amid the violence that wracked the country last year.
The allegations were a major factor in Alkatiri's ouster last year and replacement by Nobel prize laureate Jose Ramos-Horta.
If the charges are confirmed to have been dropped, Alkatiri - who remains head of the country's largest political party - will be able to contest presidential polls scheduled for later this year.
The country's deputy prosecutor Ivo Valente said he did not know of the alleged development, but noted Alkatiri's case was being handled by the prosecutor general, who was travelling in Australia.
Alkatiri held a media conference in the capital Dili to announce that the prosecutor's office had informed him the investigation was closed and that no further action would be taken for want of evidence.
"The false allegations aired with extreme political bias and utmost ill will have been found to be baseless when subject to judicial scrutiny," said Alkatiri, who has long denied any wrongdoing.
He said the allegations were a "politically motivated smear campaign instigated against my good name and character in East Timor, Australia and elsewhere".
Alkatiri was alleged by a former Cabinet minister to have played a role in the unrest, which killed at least 37 people and saw the deployment of international peacekeepers in the tiny nation that won independence from Indonesia in 1999.
Alkatiri 'to avoid charges' over Timor chaos
By Lindsay Murdoch
February 5, 2007 - 4:36PM
Mari Alkatiri, who was forced to quit as East Timor's prime minister after the tiny country descended into politically fuelled violence last year, will not face charges related to the chaos.
Dr Alkatiri confirmed to theage.com.au today that authorities had told him he would not face prosecution.
He said he would supply further details about his case as well as his political plans to reporters in Dili later today.
Dr Alkatiri stepped down in June last year after Australian troops were deployed to East Timor to quell rioting and bloody mayhem that gripped the streets of Dili for almost two months.
His critics had accused him of organising the supply of weapons to a hit squad that had been allegedly set up to eliminate his political opponents.
Dr Alkatiri always denied any wrongdoing. However, a United Nations inquiry into the violence of April and May 2006 recommended an investigation to see if he "bears any criminal responsibility with respect to weapons offences".
News that no action would be taken against Dr Alkatiri comes even though one of his former senior ministers Rogerio Lobato is standing trial on weapons and other charges related to the alleged hit squad.
Dr Alkatiri was replaced as head of East Timor's Government by current Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta
Office of the Prime Minister
COMUNICADO DE IMPRENSA
Dili, 06 de Fevereiro de 2007
In reference to statements published in today’s press attributed to the Secretary-General of Fretilin and former Prime Minister, Dr. Mari Alkatiri, the Office of the Prime Minister, Dr. José Ramos Horta, has issued part of the transcript of an interview to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) TV Network on 8 July 2006 and a piece of a AFP news line on 12 July 2006.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
TV PROGRAM TRANSCRIPT
Probe needed into death squad claims: Ramos Horta
Reporter: Tony Jones TONY JONES, PRESENTER: And I spoke to East Timor's Foreign Minister and newly appointed Defence Minister, Dr Jose Ramos Horta, in Dili just a short time ago. Jose Ramos Horta, thanks for joining us.
JOSE RAMOS HORTA, EAST TIMOR FOREIGN AND DEFENCE MINISTER: It's a pleasure.
TONY JONES: Now, how do you intend to respond to the claims that Prime Minister Alkatiri and the former Interior Minister Rogerio Lobato have set up a death squad with instructions to terminate political opponents?
JOSE RAMOS HORTA: Well, obviously, it is not up to me to confirm or deny these allegations. It will be up to the Prime Minister and the former minister Rogerio Lobato to answer these allegations. I find them absolutely serious, to be very serious allegations. An opportunity, I believe, has to be given to the PM to respond, to clarify these allegations. The allegations are allegations until they are proven to be correct through an investigation, but they are very serious matters. I have heard them before, a week or so ago, and I find it very hard to believe that our own Prime Minister would armour civilians, individuals, and particularly give orders to assassinate others, no matter who they are. The Prime Minister is a lawyer, a well-tested lawyer, and he obviously knows that this kind of action is absolutely illegal, not to say unethical and immoral and absolutely counter-productive and dangerous. So, I find it very hard to believe, knowing the Prime Minister - he might be a very tough person, tough political opponent - but I would find it very difficult to believe that he would have given specific orders to carry out this kind of actions.
TONY JONES: Now, you said you had heard of these allegations before. Had you actually heard of allegations of FRETILIN effectively setting up its own militia and its own death squads?
JOSE RAMOS HORTA: No. I never heard of death, as such, that FRETILIN had set up its own death squad. I find it just unbelievable that FRETILIN would do that. What I heard is a week or so ago allegations that the Minister of Interior with the knowledge of the Prime Minister had distributed weapons to a number of civilians and what I heard is consistent with your story that these individuals took part in a shooting incident with our Defence Force in which some of them were killed and when they were killed by our Defence Force they were angry that they had been given a certain assignment and they ended up being shot by our own Defence Force. So that part I heard, but I never heard of the full story. Exactly who they were, whether they were part of an ongoing long-term group with FRETILIN. That I never heard and I find it very, very difficult to believe that a legitimate democratic political party would sit in a Parliament, a ruling party running this country would have an armed wing, an clandestinely illegal armed wing. I heard about these allegations by these individuals a week ago or so and I still find it difficult to believe and so there has to be a serious investigation before we pass judgment on anyone.
TONY JONES: While this investigation goes on, as you say, clearly there will be an investigation. The allegations are so serious, do you believe the Prime Minister should step aside from office while these most serious of allegations are investigated?
JOSE RAMOS HORTA: Well, that is obviously a decision that has to be made by himself and by my president, preferably by the Prime Minister himself. But, I have learnt throughout my life, particularly as an adult, living in the US, in Europe and Australia, particularly about one principle, and that is presumption of innocence. Innocent until proven guilty and I personally have been always, always throughout my life tremendously hesitant, refusing to judge anyone, to pass judgment before there is absolute proof that the individual has sinned that the individual is guilty. So, what if the Prime Minister stepped aside and we find out that after all these were exaggerations, coincidences or fabrications or maybe someone else was involved like the Minister of Interior, but not himself. He didn't know. Well, I prefer to wait for an investigation and all I can agree is that the investigation has to be an impartial one and has to be carried out almost right away.
E Timor rebels surrender arms AFP, LIQUICA, EAST TIMOR Wednesday, Jul 12, 2006
East Timorese Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta launched into his new job yesterday with a symbolic start, collecting weapons from civilians as the nation tries to rebuild from a spate of violence.
The Nobel laureate was sworn in as the tiny nation's premier on Monday in a move that has raised hopes of stability returning after unrest rocked the capital in May, leading to the deaths of 21 people.
Ramos-Horta, who has been lobbying for the surrender of weapons that went missing in the mayhem, accepted assault rifles from Vicente "Railos" da Conceicao and dozens of his followers.
"Today is a very important day in the history of our country. We are moving forward in the process to restore peace and order in East Timor," he said in a speech to hundreds attending a ceremony for the weapons handover.
"The Railos group has given us an example of patriotism because they know that their possession of weapons was against the Constitution and law and they did not use the weapons against the people, the government and their friends in the army and police," he said.
Railos has accused Ramos-Horta's predecessor as prime minister, Mari Alkatiri, of paying his group to eliminate Alkatiri's political rivals.
Alkatiri resigned last month amid pressure to take responsibility for the crisis. He faces questioning over allegations he agreed to have his interior minister Rogerio Lobato distribute the arms. Lobato faces criminal charges.
Da Conceicao said he was sorry for having kept the weapons.
"We apologize to the people, the government, the president and the bishops and the United Nations special envoy," he said.
"We are sorry and we are ready to be punished for not carrying out the orders of Mari Alkatiri and Rogerio Lobato and for any mistakes we have made," he said.
Ramos-Horta has said there was not a "shred of evidence" that Alkatiri deliberately misled the country, but that he could have failed to check Lobato's activities.
He told state-run television late on Monday that his immediate priorities as prime minister were to restore order and strengthen the economy and that he would not embark on a major overhaul of the government.
"In my opinion ... the current government should not change much. It would take too much time to remodel or restructure it completely because we are dealing with security, refugees and the budget issue," he said.
During the violence, rival security force factions battled on Dili's normally sleepy streets and in the surrounding hills while some 150,000 refugees converged on makeshift camps. Most have since remained there, too uneasy about security in spite of the presence of around 3,200 foreign peacekeepers to return home.
Later yesterday, Ramos-Horta also accepted a report on transparency prepared last year from UN representative Sukehiro Hasegawa, according to a UN statement.
The delivery, due in April, had been delayed due to the "deteriorating security situation."
Hasegawa said that Ramos-Horta had "pledged his intention to place the highest importance in ensuring transparency and accountability in the conduct of his administration."
The new government was to be installed today and will meet tomorrow to discuss the 2006-2007 budget, he said.
Back to February menu