quinta-feira, 8 de março de 2007

Timor attack survivor appears in court

March 8, 2007 - 8:25PM

A wounded survivor of the Australian military attack on the camp of fugitive East Timorese rebel leader Alfredo Reinado has appeared in a Dili court.

Nixon da Costa Galucho, a deserter from an elite police unit, limped into the court with crutches and a bandaged head, a product of three gunshot wounds suffered in the attack last weekend.

One bullet had entered his leg, another had amputated his left thumb and a third had grazed his head.

Speaking through lawyer Benevides Barros before the hearing, he told AAP that Australian troops had encircled the rebel hideout near the south-coast town of Same, and four Black Hawk helicopter gunships had rained down fire from above.

He said the shooting came without warning, a version supported by Lieutenant Gastao Salsinha, leader of the 600-strong 'petitioner' army faction, in a telephone interview with a Timorese journalist.

Salsinha and Reinado both escaped the ambush, after initially being trapped in their compound.

Five East Timorese supporters of Reinado were shot dead in the operation.

Barros said he had advised his client to remain silent until he was able to counsel him adequately.

He said he had not yet been told of the charges.

Galucho deserted the police Rapid Response Unit in May 2006, to join the then small band of around 20 men supporting Reinado, after the military policeman had refused superior orders to fire on the rebel army faction.

The group took on permanent outlaw status after raiding border police posts for guns last month.

Brig-General Mel Rerdon, commander of the Australian force, said at a briefing on Thursday that the hunt for Reinado was continuing.

UN mission chief Atul Khare emphasised his backing for the operation.

"Impunity will not be tolerated, and everyone must submit to justice," he said.

He described the sentencing Wednesday of former Interior Minister Rogerio Lobato to seven and a half years in jail on arms and manslaughter charges as a step in the right direction in restoring order in East Timor.

A planned demonstration by Dili supporters of Reinado on Thursday did not materialise, after president Xanana Gusmao invoked emergency powers earlier this week.

They limit freedom of expression and association, requiring four days notice for a demonstration.

The measure has quelled demonstrations, but pro-Alfredo youths have continued night-time attacks.

They once again raided the house of the president's sister Manuela Gusmao in the early hours of Thursday, setting fire to a family car and parts of her house, which had been looted days before.

The words "Viva Alfredo" and "Xanana-traitor" were daubed on the front fence.

A few blocks away an education department warehouse of Portuguese-language textbooks was still smouldering from an arson attack 48 hours before, while a banner reading "We Love Alfredo" had been strung between lampposts nearby.

Mr Khare said he has now implemented special police protection measures for Ms Gusmao and her sister Armandina, whose house has also been attacked.

© 2007 AAP

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