Subject: Science Doesn't Back Ramos Horta Story
Science doesn't Back Ramos Horta Story
Comment Paul Toohey | August 19, 2008
EEAT Timor President Jose Ramos Horta has delivered a furious tirade against The
Australian, accusing it of inventing an article.
The story in The Australian said rebel leader Major Alfredo Reinado was shot dead at almost
point-blank range inside his compound on February 11.
Ramos Horta told the Timor Post that this newspaper and Australian forensic authorities were trying to destabilise his nation by suggesting Reinado and his offsider, Leopoldino Exposto, were shot at close range.
The President and the Timor Post have misunderstood the story. They seem to think The
Australian commissioned an independent report from the Victorian Institute of Medicine on Reinado’s wounds.
The story was in fact based on the Reinado autopsy conducted first-hand by East Timor’s head forensic pathologist, Dr Muhumad Nurul Islam.
Dr Nurul reported that Reinado had blackening and burning around each of his four bullet wounds and said he had been shot with a high-velocity rifle “at close range”.
Dr Nurul said Leopoldino was shot in the centre of the back of his head, also at close range.
Dr Nurul’s report raised questions of reported claims that Reinado had been shot at a distance of 10m to 15m by a guard who had taken up a sniper position.
The Australian went to Professor David Ranson, of the Victoria Institute of Forensic medicine to ask about the general nature of gunshot wounds. Professor Ranson said that blackening and burning only appeared when a gun was fired at almost point-blank range.
This was not just Professor Ranson’s view. Forensic pathologists across the world agree this
only occurs when rifles are fired at near-contact, or point-blank, range.
One inference to draw from this is that Reinado and Leopoldino were executed or possibly detained before being shot.
The President has reason to be angry, but not at The Australian or the Victorian Institute of Medicine.
He should be angry that he was left lying wounded on a road outside his compound for 30 minutes before help arrived.
Where were his guards when he was fighting for life?
He should be angry that his personal security guard who accompanied him for his morning jog
along the beach allowed him to return to his home with gunfire ringing out across the valley.
He should be angry that security forces – local and international - did not catch the rebels that morning as they raced off and hid in the nearby hills.
He should also be angry that UN and police investigators allowed people to tramp all over
the crime scene, even answering Reinado’s phone as he lay dead inside the President’s compound.
He should look again at the photos of the dead Reinado, and ask himself why Reinado’s body can be seen in different positions. The body has been tampered with.
Because the rebels escaped, they had time to stash or switch weapons, meaning reliable
ballistics information pertaining to the weapons used that morning has been lost.
Most of all, the President should be angry with himself.
It was Ramos Horta who acted unconstitutionally in drawing up “letters of comfort” that allowed the armed rebels with arrest warrants to remain free, despite the repeated demands of the Dili Court that they be detained.
This deeply annoyed the Australian-led International Stabilisation Force, who believed
Reinado was a common criminal who needed to be brought to justice.
But Ramos Horta had an unflagging self-belief that he, and he alone, could resolve the crisis.
Events show that he could not.
Ramos Horta maintains that Reinado and Leopoldino were shot from a distance. Science suggests otherwise.