Subject: The Australian: Jose Ramos Horta Guards 'Fled Rebels'

The Australian

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Jose Ramos Horta Guards 'Fled Rebels'

by Paul Toohey

Dili

MEMBERS of Jose Ramos Horta's hand-picked nine-man military guard fled at the sight of the rebels who turned up on the morning of February 11 last year and shot the East Timorese President, a court has heard.

It was also revealed that despite Mr Ramos Horta having identified the man who shot him in a post-recovery interview, the President's bodyguard said the shooter was wearing a balaclava.

On trial in Dili District Court are 23 rebels, four of their associates and Angelita Pires, who was renegade leader Alfredo Reinado's lover. All 28 are facing multiple charges of conspiring to kill Mr Ramos Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao.

It is claimed that the rebels, following Reinado's orders, broke into two groups and drove down from their mountain hiding hole to attack the President and Prime Minister. No motive for the attacks has yet been offered to the court.

One of the President's guards, Jose Luis, a military policeman, said he had just come on shift at 6am and walked to the front gate of the President's compound when he saw a colleague, Domingos Pereira, surrounded by soldiers in US-style uniforms. He heard someone say: "Put down your weapons and don't move."

Sergeant Luis said he ran back inside, woke two of his colleagues, and then jumped over the back fence and ran. "I was afraid and I fled," he said.

He said he caught a lift to army headquarters and informed them that the President's compound was under siege.

Sergeant Pedro Joaquim Soares said he and another guard named Isaac escorted the President on his morning walk.

Sergeant Soares said they heard shots coming from the direction of the compound. Even at the sight of a motorbike on its side, a military jeep in a gutter and a masked gunman, neither of the guards ordered the President to get out of the area.

Sergeant Soares said he saw just one man, wearing a balaclava and pointing an HK33 automatic weapon. The man fired twice, and Mr Ramos Horta fell, saying: "I'm dying."

Sergeant Soares said he unloaded his pistol at the masked man, but ran out of bullets. Meanwhile, he said, Isaac fled.

Sergeant Soares said he never saw the 10 or 11 other rebels who were supposedly at the compound, but he saw the body of Reinado and his offsider, Leopoldino, lying in the compound.

He said he felt Reinado and Leopoldino's weapons and both were cold. It appeared Reinado was shot at point-blank range.

The defence is expected to argue that Reinado was tricked into believing he had a meeting with the President in order to be murdered.


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