|Subject: Australian: Fugitive E.Timor Rebel
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Diggers surround fugitive Reinado
Stephen Fitzpatrick, Jakarta correspondent
AUSTRALIAN troops have surrounded East Timorese military rebel Alfredo Reinado in an attempt to head off deadly clashes with disgruntled supporters of the former ruling Fretilin party.
The heavily armed former military police commander is still insisting on holding talks with the country's leadership, but has refused to surrender a cache of automatic rifles stolen from a police post several months ago.
He is wanted on murder and illegal weapons charges, although senior UN officials in East Timor concede that even if he is ever brought to trial, it would most likely be on the reduced charge of manslaughter, in relation to a firefight with serving members of the country's army last year.
Major Reinado was yesterday being contained by Australian troops near the central town of Same, where he travelled several days ago from his heartland Ermera district town of Gleno.
The rebel band's latest move was described yesterday by one Western diplomat as "really poorly timed ... (with) lots of charged Fretilin youth around looking for a fight".
Same is the town where Australian soldiers killed four of Major Alfredo's followers in a bungled attempt to capture him in March.
The major's appearance there this week followed the surrender to UN police last week of a man claiming to be one of his followers, an event hailed by President Jose Ramos Horta as a step forward in solving the crisis.
Mr Ramos Horta, who previously had ordered a suspension of the Australian-led International Stabilisation Force hunt for the fugitive, said this week he would meet Major Reinado only if he and his men put down their arms, which include police-issue HK33 rifles.
However, Major Reinado's lawyer, Benevides Barros, said his client had been given permission to retain a single pistol and three special bodyguards for any meeting with Mr Ramos Horta.
"I met President Horta to discuss a weapons surrender, but he was adamant Reinado should give up all his rifles but could keep a pistol. I will be telling Reinado this," the lawyer said.
Mr Barros called on Mr Ramos Horta to break the current siege, saying it would not solve the standoff.
Major Reinado has been on the run since going AWOL at the height of last year's violence in East Timor, which claimed dozens of lives.
He spent a brief period under arrest late last year but was able to escape from a jail guarded by New Zealand soldiers.
Prosecutor General Longuinhos Monteiro holds grave fears that the current tense situation could deteriorate into a catastrophic firefight, and says he and Major Reinado's lawyers have been trying to find ways to get the rebel out of Same and back to Ermera district.
"However, the conditions right now make that impossible," Mr Monteiro said.
Mr Monteiro is adamant that Major Reinado's proposed "dialogue" is a misunderstanding by the hot-headed, Australian-trained soldier -- albeit one fed by Mr Ramos Horta, who has continued to openly use the word while insisting the runaway must face justice.
The prosecutor-general says the only viable option for Major Reinado is surrender.
Observers note that continuing negotiations over the makeup of a new parliament with former guerilla leader Xanana Gusmao at its head have relied on support from admirers of Major Reinado, including many "veterans", or retired former anti-Indonesian guerilla fighters who were never integrated into the new country's armed forces.
Although the former ruling Fretilin party won 21 seats in the 65-seat house in the recent parliamentary elections, it is unlikely to gather the coalition strength needed to form a minority government.
This looks more likely to be achieved by Mr Gusmao's National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction, or CNRT, which picked up only 18 seats but has been in meetings with the Association of Timorese Social Democrats/Social Democratic party alliance, and the Democratic Party.
However, Fretilin still insists it will lead the next parliament -- with an outside, though firming, scenario for this being a CNRT-Fretilin unity administration that has Mr Gusmao as prime minister.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) News July 13, 2007
Surrounded Reinado asks troops to withdraw
The lawyer for Alfredo Reinado says he is surrounded.
Fugitive East Timor rebel Alfredo Reinado is surrounded by international peacekeepers and wants them to withdraw so he can give up his arms, his lawyer says.
Lawyer Benevides Barros Correia says troops from the Australian-led International Stabilisation Force (ISF) have surrounded Reinado's position in Alas village, Same district, since Sunday.
"We have expressed our concern ... and also asked [the President] to find a way for the ISF to withdraw so Major Alfredo can go to a place where he can give up his arms," he said.
"Australian troops are standing only about 200 metres from Major Alfredo's position."
President Jose Ramos-Horta last month ordered that a massive manhunt for Reinado, a former member of the military police, be called off in a bid to start a dialogue with him.
But the ISF refused to confirm that they had received an order to stop their operation to find him.
Reinado was arrested in July last year on charges of illegal weapons distribution, desertion and attempted murder during unrest in April and May that left at least 37 people dead.
But he escaped from jail with more than 50 other inmates several months later and Australian-led troops attacked his mountain hide-out in March, killing five of his armed supporters in a failed bid to seize him.
The rebel has been a persistent problem for East Timor's Government and is said to have a band of armed followers, support from disaffected youth and the backing of an ethnic group living in the nation's west.
Mr Correia says he will discuss Reinado's situation with the President in the next day or two.
"Dialogue is the best way to solve the problem and what the ISF is doing is narrowing the road to a solution," he said.