Subject: Fresh doubts over Ramos Horta shooting

The Age

Fresh doubts over Ramos Horta shooting

Lindsay Murdoch, Darwin

July 5, 2008

THE rebel named as having shot East Timor's President Jose Ramos Horta was apparently not the shooter after all, deepening the mystery that still surrounds the February attacks in Dili.

The Age can reveal that Mr Ramos Horta realised that Marcelo Caetano was not the gunman when he met him in Dili after he surrendered in April.

With the investigation into the attacks still weeks away from completion, rumours about what happened in Dili soon after dawn on February 11 are continuing to fuel deep concern among East Timor's political elite.

Caetano had been named in March as the shooter by Mr Ramos Horta's brother, Arsenio, who was at the President's house the morning of the attacks but did not witness the shootings.

Mr Ramos Horta's office would not confirm the claim. "It's not clear yet," a spokesman for the President said at the time.

But Caetano became one of the main targets of a hunt in East Timor's mountains by hundreds of heavily armed soldiers and police as the media dubbed him Asia's most wanted man.

Australian soldiers in East Timor handed out wanted notices that named him as the man who tried to assassinate the popular President. Caetano repeatedly denied he shot the President, admitting only that he and other rebels went to Mr Ramos Horta's house on the orders of leader Alfredo Reinado, who was shot dead there.

In 2006, Caetano spent two weeks recuperating at Mr Ramos Horta's home from gunshot wounds.

Now being held in a jail in Dili with other rebels, he has been told that Mr Ramos Horta has not identified him although most East Timorese still believe he was the shooter.

Mr Ramos Horta, 58, has insisted he would be able to identify who shot him twice in the back, telling The Age in March he clearly saw the man's "face and eyes". The President cried when he met 11 rebels who had surrendered on April 29, including Caetano.

It was widely reported in the media that Mr Ramos Horta had come face to face with his attacker. But he told journalists who were present he did not want to lay blame. "I am happy our sons returned to Dili and that they surrendered their weapons," the Nobel Peace Prize laureate said. "The truth will be established by the court."

Australian Federal Police examinations of seized weapons and bullets are a key part of the investigation into the attacks. Fragments were removed from Mr Ramos Horta's body as he underwent a series of operations in Royal Darwin Hospital.

East Timor's Prosecutor-General, Longinhos Monteiro, in charge of the investigation, yesterday declined to comment when asked about the status of Caetano after meeting in Dili with Australia's Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus, who has responsibility for Australian Federal Police.

In March Mr Monteiro asked the AFP to provide details about telephone calls that Reinado made and received from Australia before the attacks.

Federal police were also asked to investigate a bank account in Darwin that Mr Ramos Horta told journalists was in the name of Angelita Pires, Reinado's Timorese-born Australian lover.

Mr Debus' office declined to provide any information about the meeting.

East Timor's Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao has resisted calls by MPs to set up an international inquiry into the attacks, saying Timorese can handle the situation. Mr Gusmao's vehicle was ambushed but he escaped unhurt.


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