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Asia-Pacific

Australian woman cleared over East Timor assassination attempt

An Australian woman was cleared of the attempted assassination of East Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao by an East Timorese court on Wednesday. Twenty-three of the other 27 rebels tried with Angelita Pires were sentenced to jail terms ranging from nine to 16 years.

"Today is the most important day of my life," said Pires after emerging from court a free woman. "I'd like to say that I have learnt liberty is one of the most important things an individual can possess."

Pires was cleared of the charge that she was a key player in a February 2008 attack on East Timor's two top officials. Her boyfriend, Alfredo Reinado, the ringleader of a group of disgruntled army deserters, was shot dead by the president's guards during the attack.

Ramos-Horta was seriously wounded in the attack, while Gusmao escaped unhurt.

Prosecutor Felismeno Cardoso said last month that Pires was vital to the plot, as she had gone to Darwin, Australia several times to raise money for the rebels.

Pires and the others had been on trial for the past seven months.

The group on trial were among the more than 600 East Timorese soldiers who deserted in 2006. This move triggered fighting that killed 40 and displaced 100,000 from their homes.

 
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