Subject: LUSA: Ex-PM Alkatiri questioned by prosecutors on hit team
Also Don't leave town, former East Timor leader told; East Timor: PM Horta to give written testimony in Alkatiri arms investigation
East Timor: Ex-PM Alkatiri questioned by prosecutors on hit team allegations
Dili, July 20 (Lusa) - East Timorese prosecutors questioned former Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri Thursday on allegations he armed civilians, including purported political hit teams, and ordered him to report in to authorities if he left his Dili residence, Deputy Attorney General Luís Mota Carmo said.
After the two-hour hearing, Alkatiri's lawyers said the questioning had been carried out with "simplicity and dignity".
Alkatiri, Portuguese lawyers José António Barreiros and Arnaldo Matos told Lusa, had responded to "all questions", denying "any responsibility" in the case that led to the indictment last month of former Interior Minister Rogério Lobato on four counts.
The former prime minister, who resigned June 26 as demanded by President Xanana Gusmão, made no statement on leaving the Attorney General's office, where some 50 protesters shouted slogans and waved banners demanding Alkatiri be tried.
Mota Carmo, the deputy attorney general, said Alkatiri would be summoned again for questioning and that he had not been placed under fixed residence but was obliged to inform authorities if he left his home in Dili.
The former prime minister was being questioned as a "suspect" in the same case as Lobato, who has been charged with criminal association, illegal possession of arms, conspiracy and attempted revolution - accusations that carry a maximum penalty of 15 years.
The scandal erupted early last month when self-styled death squad leader Vicente "Railos" da Conceição accused Alkatiri of having ordered Lobato to set up hit teams to eliminate political opponents both out and inside of his dominant FRETILIN party.
The allegations came amid weeks of intra-security force clashes and communal violence that left at least 37 people dead and more than 130,000 displaced, forcing Dili to call in nearly 3,000 international peacekeepers.
In a related development, a Dili judge Thursday ruled against a motion by Lobato's defense team that the charges against the ex- interior minister be dropped because Attorney General Longuinhos Monteiro's term in office had expired when the four-count indictment was issued.
The judge, Macau-based lawyers Paulo Remédios and Luís Mendonça de Freitas told Lusa, had countered that Monteiro, who was formally reinstated in his post last week, had had "no intervention in the process".
Barreiros and Matos, Alkatiri's lawyers, said they were "prudently optimistic" about the outcome of the affair.
"We are prudently optimistic and trust that justice will continue", they told Lusa.
The questioning of Alkatiri, they said, demonstrated that East Timor observed "the criteria of legality", something the "young nation" needed to assure its international "credibility".
Don't leave town, former East Timor leader told
20 Jul 2006 06:35:45 GMT
By Lirio da Fonseca
DILI, July 20 (Reuters) - Former East Timor Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri has been banned from leaving the capital Dili on suspicion of arming civilians during recent violence, the attorney-general said on Thursday.
Alkatiri resigned in June after weeks of violence, which only ended with the intervention of thousands of international troops led by Australia.
"His status is a city detainee and he cannot leave the city for 15 days. If he wants to leave the city then he must ask permission of the attorney-general," Longuinhos Monteiro told reporters after questioning the former leader.
Asked about Alkatiri's legal status related to the case that has already implicated former Interior Minister Rogerio Lobato, Monteiro said "a suspect".
Prosecutors questioned him for two hours at Monteiro's office. Australian commandos and armoured vehicles surrounded the building to prevent any violence by Alkatiri's supporters.
Monteiro, who declined to elaborate on details of the allegations, said he would summon more witnesses to strengthen the case against Alkatiri, including newly appointed Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta.
East Timor plunged into political crisis nearly three months ago when Alkatiri dismissed around 600 soldiers, mostly from the country's west, after they protested against discrimination.
Nobel laureate Ramos-Horta, previously the foreign minister, has promised to restore security and confidence to East Timor ahead of general elections due next year.
Australia led a multi-national force in 1999 following a vote for independence marked by violence blamed largely on pro-Jakarta militia with ties to the Indonesian army.
East Timor became a fully fledged nation in 2002 after a transitional period of U.N. administration but it remains one of the world's poorest countries and has massive unemployment.
However, in decades to come it is due to receive billions of dollars from energy resources that are now being developed.
East Timor: PM Horta to give written testimony in Alkatiri arms investigation
Dili, July 21 (Lusa) - East Timorese Prime Minister José Ramos Horta said Friday the Attorney General's office had asked him to give written testimony in the investigation of allegations his predecessor, Mari Alkatiri, armed civilians, including purported political hit teams, during the country's recent wave of violence.
"I received a letter to give a written deposition, something I will do promptly out of the respect I have for the office of the Attorney General of the Republic", Ramos Horta told Lusa.
"I will not comment on any decision taken by the judicial bodies", he said, adding that Alkatiri, who was questioned for a first time by prosecutors Thursday, would likely be heard again.
"The situation demands that we maintain the greatest distance possible to allow that the truth be determined and justice be done", he said, stressing that he believed in Alkatiri's "integrity as a person" but that he would "not comment on the judicial process itself".
Alkatiri, who was forced to resign June 26, has repeatedly denied the allegations.
Several sources close to the ex-prime minister told Lusa Thursday that Alkatiri has said in private he had been totally unaware that civilians had been armed and when he learned of the scheme the government had already lost control of the situation.
The sources, who asked to remain unidentified, told Lusa in Lisbon by telephone, that in early May Alkatiri asked then-Interior Minister Rogério Lobato and National Police Superintendent Paulo Martins to recruit police trackers and former independence guerrilla veterans to aid police in helping FRETILIN delegates reach Dili for the ruling party's congress on May 17-20.
Congress delegates from western parts of the country, they said, citing Alkatiri, feared for their safety at the time due to late April clashes in the capital between rival eastern "lorosae" and western "loromuno" security forces factions.
Alkatiri, the sources in Dili told Lusa, only became aware that the trackers had been armed following bloody, new flare-ups between rival police and army factions after the congress that re-elected his leadership slate in a controversial show-of hands vote.
On learning that the tracker units had been given weapons, the sources said Alkatiri ordered Lobato to disarm them, only to discover that the ex-interior minister no longer controlled the situation.
Observers said this account of the events may have been presented by Alkatiri to investigative magistrates who questioned him in the case Thursday and placed him under travel restrictions.
Lobato, who resigned earlier, was indicted last month and awaits trial on charges of criminal association, illegal arms' possession, conspiracy and attempted revolution.
A member of Alkatiri's team of international lawyers, Portuguese Arnaldo Matos, declined to confirm or deny to Lusa that this version of the events had been given by their client in Thursday's hearing.
Matos, contacted in Dili by telephone from Lisbon, simply said the questioning had taken place with "great dignity" and that Alkatiri had "assured his total innocence".
President Xanana Gusmão first demanded Lobato's resignation and then Alkatiri's as steps to end the months-long spiral of violence that left 37 dead, more than 130,000 people displaced and forced Dili to call in international peacekeepers.
In issuing his ultimatum for Alkatiri to step down, Gusmão alluded publicly to the allegations of a self-styled "death squad" leader that Alkatiri and Lobato had armed his group with instructions to eliminate political opponents.
The president also questioned the legitimacy of Alkatiri's renewed leadership of the country's dominant FRETILIN party, saying his show-of-hands re-election at the May congress was "illegal" under the country's laws, which stipulate secret ballots in such votes.
Matos, one of four lawyers who accompanied Alkatiri to Thursday's hearing, told Lusa most of Alkatiri's 10-member defense team were working for free.
Beyond local Timorese counsel, the team includes lawyers from Portugal, Indonesia, Mozambique and Macau.
Alkatiri's lawyers, Matos said, were the only persons not searched Thursday by Australian peacekeepers guarding the Attorney General's offices where the hearing took place.