Subject: SMH: Lobato retracts admission he armed hit squad

Sydney Morning Herald.

Lobato retracts admission he armed hit squad

Lindsay Murdoch July 26, 2006

EAST TIMOR'S former interior minister, Rogerio Lobato, twice admitted during closed court hearings that he armed civilian Timorese so they could murder enemies of the ruling Fretilin party, court monitors have revealed.

Lobato admitted guilt when confronted with the allegation during hearings in Dili on June 22 and July 1, the Judicial System Monitoring Program said.

But five days after the July 1 hearing, Lobato's lawyers reportedly prepared documents denying the allegations and claiming that he was coerced by Australian soldiers into making false declarations in court.

A defence spokesman denied the allegations.

Lobato was placed under house arrest last month.

The monitoring program, which was set up in 2001 to help build East Timor's judicial system, said that Lobato's three lawyers were in court on July 1 when he agreed with accusations based on the testimony of Vicente da Conceicao, a former guerilla fighter known as "Railos".

In statements presented in court Mr da Conceicao said that Lobato gave him weapons and ordered him to murder political opponents of the ruling Fretilin party, including disgruntled army officers.

He said Lobato was acting with the full knowledge of the now deposed prime minister, Mari Alkatiri, who was questioned by prosecutors last week. Prosecutors have indicated Mr Alkatiri is being treated as a suspect in the case.

Lobato could face up to 15 years in jail if found guilty.

Agence France-Presse reports that East Timorese police who had illegally kept weapons in their homes for protection during the recent weeks of unrest have surrendered more than 50 firearms to Australian peacekeepers.

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