Subject: LUSA: Alkatiri applauds high court ruling on his FRETILIN party leadership

16-08-2006 20:20:00. Fonte LUSA. Notícia SIR-8260230 Temas:

East Timor: Alkatiri applauds high court ruling on his FRETILIN party leadership

Dili, Aug. 16 (Lusa) - Former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri Wednesday welcomed the decision by East Timor's high court validating his controversial re-election as head of the dominant FRETILIN party at a congress amid the country's recent wave of violence.

"I had no doubt the (court's) decision would be in this sense", a ruling that "does not surprise me", Alkatiri, who was forced to resign as prime minister on June 26 by President Xanana Gusmão, told journalists in Dili.

"I must congratulate the justice system for having completely disassociated itself from political pressures and for having taken an objective decision based on the law and on the conscious of the judges", he added.

Dili's Court of Appeals, the highest tribunal in the country's still incomplete justice system, ruled Friday that Alkatiri re- election as FRETILIN secretary-general last May was fully legitimate, violating neither national legislation nor party statutes.

The case was brought before the court by eight FRETILIN members who challenged the legitimacy of the show-of-hands vote that kept Alkatiri as party chief, along with chairman Francisco Guterres, parliament's speaker.

In demanding Alkatiri resign as prime minister, amid a spiral of violence pitting rival security force factions and communal gangs, Gusmão also publicly challenged the legitimacy of the outgoing government chief's party leadership because of the hands-up vote.

Guterres, who accompanied Alkatiri in meeting reporters, read a statement congratulating the court for ruling that the president had "neither legal nor constitutional competence" to pronounce on such issues.

Alkatiri, who is under investigation on allegations he helped fuel the recent violence by arming political hit squads, also predicted FRETILIN would retain a parliamentary majority in the general elections expected next year.

A FRETILIN victory would "not necessarily" mean he would retake the post of prime minister, he said, but he declined to exclude such a possibility.

The violence that erupted in late April, leading to the deployment of a 3,000-strong, mostly Australian international peacekeeping force in late May, killed 37 people and displaced more than 150,000, according to UN officials.



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