Subject: East Timor opposition calls for early election in militia leader row

ETimor opposition calls for early election in militia leader row

Sept 10 (AFP) -- East Timor's opposition called on President Jose Ramos-Horta on Thursday to dissolve parliament in a row over the release of an Indonesian former militia leader accused of involvement in a 1999 massacre.

Opposition Fretilin party secretary general Mari Alkatiri challenged Ramos-Horta to call early elections over government "interference" in securing the release of Martenus Bere last month.

"We don't want President Ramos-Horta to resign, but what we want is for parliament to be dissolved and for there to be early elections," former prime minister Alkatiri told reporters.

"What is going on in East Timor right now is a big confusion. The decision to free Bere was careless because it was interference with judicial decisions," he said.

Opposition National Union Party lawmaker Fernanda Borges said Bere was released from Dili's Becora Prison on a verbal order from Justice Minister Lucia Lobato, at the urging of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao.

Bere was detained after crossing into East Timor on August 8, five years after being indicted for his role in the 1999 Suai church massacre in which up to 200 people were killed.

East Timor's leadership has been tight-lipped on Bere's release amid criticism of its opposition to prosecuting those believed responsible for abuses during Indonesia's bloody 1975-1999 occupation.

The 24-year occupation, which ended after a UN-backed vote that saw Timorese overwhelmingly support independence, killed at least 100,000 people.

Justice Minister Lobato said earlier this week the release was a "political decision".

Supreme Court chief justice Claudio de Jesus Ximenes said Wednesday "correspondent legal and disciplinary action" would be taken if Bere's release was found to be illegal.

"The release referred to in the media as having occurred was not ordered by a court decision," he said in a statement.

Ramos-Horta threatened to resign on Wednesday after parliament refused to approve his overseas trips to New York, Denmark and Germany in protest over Bere's release.

Lawmakers later reversed their decision made a day earlier after the president issued his ultimatum.


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