Subject: RT: Youth arrested over alleged rape at E.Timor convent

Youth arrested over alleged rape at E.Timor convent

13 Aug 2007 12:14:13 GMT

DILI, Aug 13 (Reuters) - Police in East Timor have arrested a teenaged youth suspected of raping an 11-year-old female student at a Catholic convent during violence last week in the east of the country, the United Nations said on Monday.

A priest told Reuters at the weekend that armed gangs attacked a convent he headed in the district of Baucau on Friday and assaulted female students.

The United Nations Mission in East Timor said a 16-year-old male had been arrested on suspicion he raped an 11-year old student at an orphanage attached to the convent.

"The suspect was arrested on August 11 and then escaped but surrendered again to police later in the day," the mission said in a statement.

Violence has erupted in several districts in East Timor since President Jose Ramos-Horta appointed a coalition last week led by independence hero Xanana Gusmao to govern after no party won a majority in parliamentary elections on June 30.

Ramos-Horta's decision sparked violent protests by supporters of the former ruling party, Fretilin, which claims the right to govern after winning most votes in the polls.

It has branded the president's move as unconstitutional and pledged to boycott the new government, installed last week with Gusmao appointed as prime minister.

Factional bloodshed broke out in the impoverished country of about 1 million people last year, forcing tens of thousands to flee their homes.

The mayhem, during which 37 people were killed, was triggered by the previous government's decision to sack 600 soldiers.

About 3,000 international police and troops are currently in East Timor to restore order.

Meanwhile, police said 3,000 people had fled to the hills in Viqueque district since last week after their houses were torched.

Police in Baucau said they had arrested 71 people and seized home-made weapons.

"The situation in Baucau is now calm," Baucau police chief Pedro Belo said, adding that Fretilin supporters were holding rallies in several villages.

Baucau and Viqueque are Fretilin strongholds.

Fretilin deputy secretary Jose Reis said supporters would continue to rally against the new government but would not engage in violence.

"Protesting is normal because the constitution gives us the right to protest against injustice and un-democractic acts," he told reporters.

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UCAN: Convent girls raped, church property destroyed as new PM takes office 8/13/2007

UCANews (<http://www.ucanews.com>www.ucanews.com) DILI, East Timor (UCAN) ­ The Baucau diocese has expressed dismay over the rape of convent girls there and the burning of Church property following the announcement of the appointment of the country's new prime minister.

Father Francisco Pinheiro da Silva, vicar general of Baucau Diocese, says that on Aug. 10, unidentified men raped about nine girls, one of them only 8 years old and the others 15-17, at around 2 a.m. in the Canossian Convent.

"Indications show that the brutality and immoral actions were done by Fretilin supporters," said Father da Silva, referring to supporters of the former ruling party.

The vicar general, who handles administrative affairs for the diocese, told UCA News Aug. 13 that apart from the attack on the convent there had been attacks on Church and public buildings. During the three days Aug. 7-9, the diocesan office, the Caritas office, the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) office and a Catholic-run kindergarten were burned down, he said, speaking by telephone from Baucau, 120 kilometers (about 75 miles) east of Dili.

After President Jose Ramos-Horta announced Aug. 5 that he would appoint former president and independence hero Alexandre "Xanana" Gusmao as become prime minister, Fretilin party supporters demonstrated on the streets in Baucau and Dili. Baucau is considered a Fretilin stronghold.

Fretilin won the most votes in the June national election, but its 21 seats in the 65-member parliament are far short of the majority needed to form a government outright. Gusmao's party picked up 18 seats, but it later formed an alliance with three other parties to form a parliamentary majority.

Fretilin's leaders are still demanding the right to form the government and claim they will take the matter to court.

The vicar general regretted what he described as the "organized" violence that followed Ramos-Horta's announcement. He said he would urge United Nations peacekeeping forces to find and bring to justice those behind the incidents.

The sacking of 600 soldiers in 2006 by former Fretilin prime minister Mari Alkatiri led to clashes between "easterners" and "westerners" that resulted in more than 20 dead and well over 100,000 homeless in this troubled country of 1 million. Many of the displaced people had returned and relative peace had prevailed up to and through the presidential election on May 9 and the parliamentary election on June 30. The August violence shattered that.

Bishop Basilio do Nascimento of Baucau condemned the brutality of irresponsible people who have burned, raped and destroyed public facilities.

"I'm really sad about the immoral actions of irresponsible people," he told local media on Aug. 12. The bishop said he regretted the actions of "stupid people" who do not accept the political reality.

"I do not accuse anybody, but anyone who is behind those violations must bear responsibility," the bishop said.

According to Father da Silva, second-in-charge of the diocese after the bishop, more than 600 houses were burned down and more than 6,000 people have fled into the jungle. It is reported that three villages in Viqueque district, 185 kilometers (about 115 miles) east of Dili, were burned to the ground, he said.

Baucau district is calm now, he said, but many still live in fear and are traumatized because thousands of people have lost their homes and property.

One laywoman in Baucau told UCA News Aug. 13 that she was sad about the action of apparent Fretilin supporters. Veronica Xemenes, 40, said that these people do not respect the Church and do not have a moral conscience.

"This kind of action can only be considered immoral and communist," she told UCA News. One possible reason for it, she claimed, is the perception of some that the church is supporting Gusmao's party and its alliance in order to bring down Fretilin.

The Fretilin government under Alkatiri was at odds with the church leadership on several occasions, including the matter of religious education in schools, on which the government backed down from a proposal to make this optional.

After breaking away from decades of Indonesian rule in 1999 and formally declaring statehood in 2002, Timor Leste, or East Timor, faces major security, humanitarian and economic challenges. Although it has significant offshore oil and gas reserves, its unemployment rate is about 50 percent.

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Republished by Catholic Online with permission of the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News), the world's largest Asian church news agency (<http://www.ucanews.com>www.ucanews.com).


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