President of East Timor pardons rebels who shot him

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

José Ramos-Horta in 2009
Image: Ashtar Analeed Marcus, USAID.

José Ramos-Horta, president of East Timor, has pardoned rebel leader Gastão Salsinha and 22 of his followers, involved in the 2008 attacks during which he was shot in the back and nearly died.

Dr. Ramos-Horta was shot by rebels on 11th February 2008 and survived only after being flown to the Royal Darwin Hospital in Australia, where he underwent five operations. He told the Sydney Morning Herald this year that one of the rebels, Marcelo Caetano, had admitted having shot him, and had apologised, saying he had not intended to kill him. According to the newspaper Tempo Semanal, Ramos-Horta said he is releasing the rebels because they were also victims. The pardons were gazetted last Friday, but the rebels will only be released after a court order is made.

The announcement follows last year's release of Maternus Bere, a former pro-Indonesian militia leader indicted by a United Nations crimes unit over the Suai Church Massacre in 1999. Bere was allowed to return to West Timor, where he became a government official, prompting international criticism.

Ramos-Horta is a co-recipient of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize and a former Prime Minister of East Timor.