Subject: Autopsy doubt on rebels
also Questions continue six months after Reinado's death
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Autopsy doubt on rebels
QUESTIONS have been raised as to whether rebel leader Alfredo Reinado was lured down from the mountains of East Timor to be executed after it emerged he was shot dead at almost point-blank range inside the home of President Jose Ramos Horta.
The Australian has obtained the autopsy reports for Reinado and fellow rebel Leopoldino Exposto, who died at Reinado's side.
Exposto was shot once in the direct centre of the back of his head at ``close range'', typical of an execution-style killing. The skin around Reinado's four entry wounds -- to the eye, the neck, the chest and the hand -- all featured significant burning and blackening.
David Ranson, of the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, said it was well-established across the forensic world that gunshot wounds that featured burning and blackening came from rifles discharged at point-blank or ``near-contact'' range: less than 30cm.
``Blackening is a critical issue to gunshot wounds,'' Professor Ranson said. ``The ballistic textbooks are very clear on this. Burning and blackening is a feature of very close-range shots, probably from less than a foot away. If you see burning and soot-type burning, it indicates that the barrel of the gun was very close to the skin's surface.''
Burning comes from close-range muzzle flash. The blackening, or tattooing, comes from gunpowder.
The public version to date is that Reinado, a 42-year-old Australian-trained major who had led a year-long mutiny, and Exposto were caught unaware as they entered the presidential compound on February 11 and were shot by a guard from a distance of at least 10 to 15 metres away.
Mr Ramos Horta suffered gunshot wounds when he was caught in gunfire as he returned to the compound from his morning walk, and one of his guards was killed. Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao escaped a separate attack on his convoy as it took him from his home to his office.
But the official version of events has been clouded by the findings of forensic pathologist Muhammad Nurul Islam, who conducted the autopsies. He writes that Exposto and Reinado were killed ``at close range'' with a high-velocity rifle.
Dr Nurul notes that all Reinado's wounds featured ``blackening/burning'' especially so in his left eye, where the discolouration covers an unusually sizeable 10cm x 9cm area, which could indicate a point-blank shot.
Despite some reports that Reinado was either drunk or on drugs, Dr Nurul said there were no toxicological testing facilities at the Dili morgue and that question would never be answered.
Mr Ramos Horta has maintained Reinado was an uninvited guest that day and this was an act of aggression.
What is certain is that the events inside the villa that morning are not as clear as previously presented, and may have involved Reinado and Exposto either walking into a trap or being held at close quarters before being shot.
One of Reinado's wounds was to his left hand, suggesting he may have raised it in a defensive gesture knowing he was about to be shot.
The close-range shooting opinion is strongly reinforced by the burning and blackening that appeared on Reinado's chest wound, despite the fact he was shot through a thick ammunition vest.
Reinado and Exposto were shot with a high-powered AR-15 semi-automatic Armalite weapon, or weapons, as issued to the presidential guard.
Accounts from inside Dili jail from Reinado's rebels, obtained by The Australian, have it that Reinado went to Dili for an early-morning appointment with the President. Reinado's men maintain they had no plan to attack the President but their interviews are riddled with inconsistencies.
Joyo Indonesia News Service
==== ========= ==== =======
Questions continue six months after Reinado's death
By Stephanie March
DILI, Aug 13 AAP - Six months ago Victor Alvez's voice rang out through radios and televisions, appealing for peace and calm from the people of East Timor.
He had just buried his son-in-law, Alfredo Reinado, in the front yard of a home down Dili's back streets, next to the body of Leopoldinio Exposto, who was also shot and killed at the home of President Jose Ramos Horta by military guards.
His calls were prompted by fears of a violent backlash by supporters of the former soldier turned fugitive rebel.
To many people's surprise, the streets of Dili remained calm.
Today, down that dusty backstreet, the sun filters through the vines covering an archway over the two graves, lighting up the dozens of bright plastic flowers left by family and friends over the past week.
The streets of Dili may have remained quiet over the past six months, but Victor Alvez's life is far from peaceful.
"I am so sad; I will never stop thinking of him," he said.
"It's the same for his friends and family - even after six months these feelings remain so strongly."
Alvez has always professed his son-in-law's innocence against allegations he had plotted to kill or kidnap the president.
His spirits have been lifted by a report in The Australian newspaper that top forensic scientists say it was possible Reinado was executed at close range, confirming suspicions he was lured down from his mountain hideout to the president's home.
"If he wanted to kill Horta, he could have done that on February in Maliana when they had a meeting, why he not kill him there?," Alvez said.
"He is trained military; it is easy for him to kill. If he went there to kill people all of Horta's guards would be dead."
Alvez says he has been receiving anonymous phone calls from people who say they witnessed the shooting, and who also believe Reinado was lured into a trap.
But despite the ongoing criminal investigation into the events of February 11, he has little faith that those behind the incident will ever be brought to justice.
""We really do not know yet who was behind it, but I know it's because of the politics."
He is not the only one who is having doubts about the investigation.
A detailed report into the shooting by the UN is complete but unreleased, while the criminal investigation by the prosecutor-general has run overtime and is being seriously questioned in Dili.
The UN had refused to release the report into events immediately following the shootings, so as not to interfere with the criminal investigation.
Charged with leading that investigation is prosecutor-general Longuinhos Monteiro, whose credibility is in serious doubt.
A UN report into the violence of 2006 said Monteiro followed blindly the policy of the president who appointed him, Xanana Gusmao, and as a result he did not "function independently from the state of East Timor."
"The man in charge - the prosecutor-general - has already in our eyes proved himself to be anything but politically impartial," said opposition Fretilin MP Jose Teixeira.
Despite the expertise of dozens of international investigators carrying out the prosecutor general's orders, the chance of uncovering what really happened may have already be lost.
There have been allegations Reinado was high on drugs and had been drinking the night before was killed, but sources close to the investigation say toxicological tests may not have been done during the autopsies.
Alvez says his son-in-law was a person who "doesn't like to drink a lot of alcohol," and would only do so if it were culturally necessary on certain social occasions.
A leaked UN report found the National Investigation Department has encountered "political and military interference" as well as a lack of cooperation. Poor handling of evidence - including the weapons used by the rebels - has also botched the investigation.
A source close to the investigation said the F-FDTL soldiers guarding the president's home took Reinado's cell phone off his body, and continued to receive and make calls for days after his death, before handing them over to investigators.
"They could (also) have deleted some numbers, some messages, we don't know," the source told AAP.
The F-FDTL refused to respond to these allegations, and neither the UN report or those involved in the investigation can say if their actions were the result of malfeasance, or innocent mistakes.
While Alvez's heart aches for his lost son-in-law, and has little hope his name will ever be cleared, he himself is steadfast that Reinado was nothing more than an innocent victim of politics.
""My heart says that is not true, but if the decision comes out saying he is guilty, maybe that is the justice in this world, but for me the decision will be made by God and I hope he will give justice."
Autopsy doubt on rebels