Subject: ABC: Aust troops defend not arresting E Timor's most wanted

Wednesday, November 29, 2006. 11:39am (AEDT)

Aust troops defend not arresting E Timor's most wanted

By Anne Barker

Australian troops in East Timor have been filmed meeting the rebel leader Alfredo Reinado, who is still on the run from jail, but they made no attempt to arrest him.

Reinado has been on the run since August, when he broke out of jail with 56 other inmates and fled to the hills.

He is charged with attempted murder and many blame him for much of the violence that rocked East Timor earlier this year.

But authorities have been reluctant to arrest him and allowed him to address a peace seminar at Suai, aimed at healing some of the tensions that have divided the nation.

Australian soldiers were present but also made no attempt to take him into custody.

Australian Brigadier Mal Rerden defended the decision not to arrest East Timor's most wanted man, saying it was at the request of the East Timorese Government.

"That's a matter for the Government. They have decided that it's appropriate for him to participate in that event because they are looking for ways to develop the dialogue and to bring Reinado back into the justice system," he said.

The Prime Minister, Jose Ramos Horta, has expressed hope that Reinado will eventually surrender and return to jail.

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