Subject: UCAN: Catholic Church ready to mediate in East Timor, but govít to clarify status of 'fugitive'

UCAN: Catholic Church ready to mediate in East Timor, but govít to clarify status of 'fugitive'

7/3/2007

UCANews (www.ucanews.com)

DILI, East Timor (UCAN) ≠ The bishop of Baucau Diocese says the Catholic Church is ready to mediate between the government and fugitive Major Alfredo Alves Reinado. However, the authorities have to clarify the legal status of the former military police chief.

"The church is ready to contribute to this," because it does not want the people mired in problems, according to Bishop Basilio do Nascimento. "But, I want to stress one thing: the church is unclear about the status of the fugitive."

The 65-year-old prelate spoke with UCA News June 20 in Dili after the government said it had given up the hunt for Reinado.

The former military police chief abandoned his headquarters in May 2006 due to dissatisfaction over the government's sacking of 599 soldiers, mostly from the western part of the country.

Reinado then led his followers to attack a military base near Dili. Deadly riots then broke out in Dili between groups claiming to advocate the causes of "easterners" and "westerners." More than 20 people died and 100,000 fled their homes for makeshift refugee camps, International forces from Australia, Malaysia and Portugal were called in to help stabilize the country.

These forces apprehended Reinado in June 2006, and he was detained at the prison in Becora, Dili. However, he escaped after three months and became the most wanted person in the country.

Bishop do Nascimento is seen as a possible mediator between Reinado and the government.

Repeating a concern he had voiced at a June 18 press conference in Dili, the prelate told UCA News he is still unclear about Reinado's status even though the government has announced the end of the hunt for him.

President Jose Ramos-Horta announced June 19 that the search by international forces was finished. He urged the attorney general to find ways to implement an immediate dialogue between the government, army and the fugitive which the church would mediate.

Ramos-Horta has broached the subject of church mediation between the government and Reinado on at least two occasions with Bishop Ricardo da Silva of Dili. In March, as prime minister, he asked the Dili bishop "to help the government in negotiating differences with Major Reinado." He brought up the matter again during a courtesy call on May 23, three days after being sworn into office as president.

Bishop do Nascimento said the reason the church asked for government clarification was because, on the one hand, Reinado still recognizes himself as a military officer, while the military claims he is a fugitive and deserter. The government has not clarified whether he is still in the army or has been discharged, he explained.

However, the bishop applauded the direct approach of President Ramos-Horta. "It is a good alternative, and it is important to have dialogue."

Bishop do Nascimento said Reinado must face justice, since he had abandoned his post, attacked and removed weapons from border police, and attacked the army, resulting in some deaths. That kind of action anywhere would be categorized as a crime, the prelate said.


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