Subject: East Timor arrests alleged hit squad leader

also AFP: Former ETimor guerrilla fighter arrested over unrest

East Timor arrests alleged hit squad leader

Wed Oct 3, 2007 4:20am ET

DILI (Reuters) - Police in East Timor arrested on Wednesday the suspected head of a hit squad linked with a former interior minister convicted of giving weapons to civilians during a wave of violence last year, the United Nations and police said.

Vicente "Railos" da Conciecao was arrested at his home in Liquica district and charges against him were related to homicide, the United Nations mission in East Timor said in a statement.

He has been linked with former interior minister Rogerio Lobato who was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in March for distributing weapons and ammunition to civilians.

Violence broke out in the impoverished tiny country in May last year after the government sacked 600 mutinous members of East Timor's 1,400-strong army. At least 37 people were killed.

The chaos drove more than 100,000 people from their homes and led to the deployment of an international peacekeeping force.

Railos was expected to appear in court in the capital, Dili, later on Wednesday.

"Railos and five of his members are in preventive prison now," police operations commander Mateus Fernandes told Reuters.

Julio da Silva, a relative of Railos, said the arrest was illegal because police did not have a warrant.

East Timor voted in a 1999 referendum for independence from Indonesia, which annexed it after Portugal ended its colonial rule in 1975. The country became fully independent in 2002 after a period of U.N. administration.

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Former ETimor guerrilla fighter arrested over unrest

5 hours ago

DILI (AFP) ­ A former East Timorese guerrilla fighter was arrested on Wednesday and charged in connection with deadly unrest that flared here last year, the United Nations mission said.

Vicente "Railos" da Conceicao was among a number of key protagonists in a complex plot surrounding East Timor's descent into chaos in April and May last year that is still being unravelled by investigators.

At least 37 people were killed when fighting between various factions of the security forces and gang warfare erupted following the sacking of deserting soldiers. Thousands of foreign peacekeepers were deployed to restore calm.

Da Conceicao and his civilian followers alleged they received weapons from them interior minister Rogerio Lobato, who was jailed for his role in distributing arms, and were paid to kill their political opponents.

"He was arrested pursuant to an arrest warrant issued on September 13, 2007 for his alleged role in the events of the 25th and 26th of May last year," the UN mission said in a statement.

"Railos has been charged for violating Articles 338 and 55 of the Penal Code, related to homicide, and is expected to appear in court in Dili later today," it said.

Da Conceicao and his 34 followers eventually handed over their weapons -- 14 assault rifles -- to then prime minister Jose Ramos-Horta in July last year in a ceremony attended by hundreds of people outside the capital.

The ex-fighter apologised publicly for keeping the weapons and maintained they had not been used to carry out the alleged orders of Lobato and then prime minister Mari Alkatiri.

Ramos-Horta hailed the group at the time as setting an example of patriotism in the tiny nation, saying they had not used their weapons against the people.

Alkatiri resigned in the wake of the violence. Ramos-Horta served as interim prime minister until Xanana Gusmao, the country's former president, assumed the post following elections this year.

The UN's top official here, Atul Khare, welcomed Da Conceicao's arrest as being a sign of "the continued strong commitment of the authorities of Timor-Leste to implement recommendations of the UN Special Commission of Inquiry Report issued in October last year."

That commission had recommended that Alkatiri be investigated for his role in the violence, but prosecutors found there was no evidence to support laying criminal charges against him.

Lobato, who was jailed in March, has since travelled to Malaysia for medical treatment and Dili has asked for international assistance to ensure he returns to serve out his seven-year term.

UN and local police along with the International Security Forces (ISF) have been positioned in sensitive locations to maintain order following Da Conceicao's arrest, the UN mission also said.


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