Subject: RT: Timor ex-minister faces 7 years in jail

Timor ex-minister faces 7 years in jail

< >Reuters

February 15, 2007 - 10:29PM

East Timor's prosecutors sought a seven-year jail sentence for a former interior minister on Thursday for allegedly giving weapons to civilians led by an army rebel during a wave of violence last year.

Prosecutors said Rogerio Lobato distributed police uniforms, weapons and ammunition to a group of civilians led by renegade army major Alfredo Reinado without the knowledge of the government.

"The defendant did this not for public interest but for his own," prosecutor Bernades Fernandes told a court trying the case in the capital, Dili.

Violence broke out in the impoverished tiny country in May after the government sacked 600 mutinous members of East Timor's 1,400-strong army.

The chaos led to the deployment of an international peacekeeping force.

Prosecutors have dropped similar charges against former prime minister Mari Alkatiri because of lack of evidence.

A report released last October by a UN-appointed Independent Special Commission of Inquiry called for further investigation to determine whether Alkatiri should face criminal charges for fomenting the violence.

It also recommended that several officials, including Lobato and the military chief, be prosecuted for illegal distribution of weapons.

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 UN administration.

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