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E Timor govt makes contact with sacked soldiers


East Timor's government has made contact with nearly 400 of some 600 sacked soldiers whose protest last month turned into a deadly riot.

Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri's office says government officials met with the dismissed soldiers on Tuesday and Wednesday (local time) "to discuss immediate humanitarian assistance and the payment of a subsidy".

The subsidy, equal to their wage in the military, would be paid until June to assist them and their families, it said in a statement.

In return, the government expected the former soldiers to take part in an investigation being conducted into their complaints.

The soldiers left their barracks complaining of ethnic discrimination and were sacked shortly afterwards.

The office also says seven people will face trial over an attack on Monday against the office of a regional state secretary outside Dili involving a mob of about 1,000, which saw one policeman killed.

Mr Alkatiri said on Tuesday that the two incidents were a continuing attempt to stage a coup in the world's youngest nation by crippling democratic institutions so the president would be forced to dissolve parliament.

He did not elaborate on who was behind the violence.

A number of embassies have withdrawn non-essential staff and thousands of people fled Dili in the aftermath of the violence, the worst unrest to hit the nation since it voted for independence from Indonesian rule in 1999.

Ramos-Horta writes to UN

Meanwhile, East Timor's Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta has written to the United Nations's (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights to invite experts to visit in the wake of reports critical of its police force.

Human Rights Watch said last month that the government must act urgently to stop police torture and other ill-treatment of detainees before the practice becomes widespread.

The US State Department said in its 2005 Human Rights Report, released in March, that "there were numerous credible allegations of abuse of authority" among the police force.

The minister says in his letter that the government invites the dispatch of any relevant "special procedures mandate holders", such as the UN special rapporteur on torture, to visit East Timor.

"Timor-Leste [East Timor] has and remains strongly committed to its international human rights obligations and takes any allegations of rights violations by the State very seriously," he wrote.

"With this in mind, Timor-Leste wishes to take this opportunity to extend to all Special Procedures Mandate Holders an open invitation to visit Timor-Leste to assess the allegations of rights violations made by the relevant institutions of our country."

-AFP




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