Subject: East Timor fears Lobato may dodge jail

East Timor fears Lobato may dodge jail

September 24, 2007 - 7:04PM

AAP

East Timor's government fears a jailed former minister, allowed to leave the country for medical care, won't return to serve his sentence for arming hit squads during last year's unrest.

The government has also flagged a possible corruption inquiry related to the case of the former Fretilin government's interior minister Rogerio Lobato.

Days before the Fretilin government lost power in August, a judge ordered his release from a Dili prison for urgent medical treatment in Malaysia.

The order was made despite only one of three doctors who examined Lobato saying he needed overseas medical care.

The other two - including an Australian doctor - had said he could receive adequate care in East Timor.

Before Lobato left the country early last month, East Timor's new government had expressed concern he might seek to remain overseas.

But East Timor's new justice minister Lucia Lobato - a younger cousin of Rogerio Lobato - said he was allowed to leave because the government could not be seen to overrule the courts.

"We could not interfere with the courts. It's a sensitive and confused situation," Ms Lobato said this week.

But she admitted her government remained "very worried" that Lobato would flee.

Lobato was convicted earlier this year of manslaughter and supplying arms to civilian hit squads tasked with eliminating government opponents in 2006.

Some 37 people were killed in the unrest, which brought the nation to a standstill.

Lobato was allowed to leave East Timor after a legal agreement was reached, saying he must return immediately after treatment.

In his court order allowing overseas treatment, Judge Ivo Rosa said the constitution enshrined the right of prisoners to adequate medical care.

But the former interior minister did not leave jail like an average felon.

Justice minister Lucia Lobato said he was allowed out of jail without a single document being shown to its director. He then flew to Kuala Lumpur on August 8 in a Kuwaiti-owned Lear jet.

He had with him $US30,000 ($A35,250) from the Timorese treasury for "expenses" paid by then Fretilin prime minister Estanislau da Silva after a request from his then justice minister, Domingos Sarmento.

The newly-elected government of Xanana Gusmao may hold an inquiry to examine possible corruption charges.

Lucia Lobato raised questions about the nature of Lobato's medical condition.

She queried why he had been operated on for a back complaint rather than the prostate and heart problems one doctor said he had.

She said Judge Rosa had also said three experts recommended treatment abroad when in fact only one did.

Of three examining doctors in Dili hospital, only Cuban Aniceto Cabeza Suarez recommended overseas treatment.

An Australian surgeon specifically stated that his various complaints were not life threatening and could be treated in East Timor.

A third doctor, a Chinese urologist, simply said Lobato should be given new medication for a benign prostate condition.

Timorese ambassador Juvencio Martins has said Lobato had a spinal disc operation in Kuala Lumpur on August 21 and has since been discharged to recover in a rented apartment.

Lucia Lobato said she was particularly concerned that Malaysia had so far not responded to East Timor's requests that it must ensure Lobato does not leave Malaysia.


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