Subject: AFP: Alkatiri grilled over allegedly arming civilians

November 7, 2006. 3:45pm (AEDT)

Alkatiri grilled over allegedly arming civilians

Former East Timorese prime minister Mari Alkatiri has appeared under tight security escort at the General Prosecutor's Office for questioning over allegations of arming civilians during the May unrest.

Arriving in a government car under escort from several East Timorese security personnel and six Australian soldiers, Dr Alkatiri made no comment upon arrival.

Today was the second time he had responded to a summons from the General Prosecutor's Office since he appeared there in July.

Dr Alkatiri, who resigned from the prime ministership in June, is being investigated over allegations that he armed civilians to silence his political opponents.

He has vehemently denied the claims.

The UN inquiry into violence in East Timor issued a report last month that said Dr Alkatiri failed to prevent weapons falling into the hands of civilians and should be criminally investigated.

Dr Alkatiri was quoted by the Suara Timor Lorosae newspaper on Monday (local time) as saying the accusation - that he was involved in the distribution of guns by his political party, Fretilin, to its members - had been proven false by the UN Commission of Inquiry.

The tiny nation of 1 million was rocked by unrest in April and May that followed the dismissal of soldiers who had deserted the army, complaining of discrimination from superiors based on whether they came from the east or west of the country.

Some 37 people were left dead in pitched battles between security forces during bloody street violence.

More than 150,000 people fled their homes and 3,000 Australian-led peacekeepers were deployed to restore calm.


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