Subject: AFP: Former ETimor minister to appeal jail term

March 23, 2007 Friday 4:39 AM GMT

Former ETimor minister to appeal jail term

DILI, March 23 2007

A former East Timor cabinet minister has appealed his seven-year jail sentence for weapons offences, reports said Friday.

Former home affairs minister Rogerio Lobato was jailed on March 7 for illegally distributing weapons to civilians during unrest last year that left 37 people dead and caused 150,000 to flee.

His lawyer Paulo dos Remedios filed an appeal on Thursday and said the court in the capital, Dili, had erred in its judgement, the Timor Post newspaper reported.

"The Dili district court had made many mistakes ... we appeal with a stronger case and hope that the appeal court can change the sentence," he was quoted as saying.

UN police in East Timor boosted their presence in the capital over fears of rowdy protests by Lobato's many supporters after he was sentenced.

The former minister founded a guerrilla army that fought Indonesia's 24-year occupation of East Timor, which lasted until 1999. He was placed under house arrest pending the appeal.

East Timor is one of the world's newest and poorest nations. It is scheduled to hold presidential elections on April 9, with thousands of police officers to be mobilised amid fears of violence.

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