AN AUSTRALIAN woman has been released on bail after being charged over attacks against East Timor's two top political leaders.
Angelita Pires, a well-connected Timorese-born Australian, is the first person charged over the attacks in which the country's popular President, Jose Ramos Horta, was seriously wounded.
Prosecutors yesterday described her arrest as a dramatic breakthrough in police investigations, but Pires was last night bailed after a judge found there was not enough evidence to detain her. East Timor's Prosecutor-General, Longuinhos Monteiro, told The Age that a woman he identified as "AP" had been detained on charges of the attempted murder of Mr Ramos Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao.
Pires was a confidant of rebel leader Alfredo Reinado, who was shot dead when he and 11 masked gunmen stormed Mr Ramos Horta's home on February 11. Mr Monteiro said Pires had also been charged with conspiracy for crimes against the state.
Pires was bailed after a four-hour court hearing at the Dili Court of Appeal.
Her sister Lourdes telephoned a friend after the closed hearing to say that Pires was "free for now".
Pires wept and was comforted by her sister and lawyer as the judge questioned her, witnesses said. She left the court in a private four-wheel drive and covered her face with her hands as she sat on the floor.
East Timor's army and police yesterday mounted a joint operation to catch those responsible for last week's attacks. Acting President Fernando La Sama de Araujo yesterday set a one-month deadline to catch the culprits.
After the attacks, Pires told friends Reinado was lured to Mr Ramos Horta's house to be assassinated because he was about to reveal plots by powerful political figures. But the United Nations is investigating allegations Reinado wanted to kidnap Mr Ramos Horta.
Pires, 38, spent months in the mountains with Reinado before the attacks.
She was present at some negotiations to try to persuade Reinado to surrender. "Angela was one of the closest people to Alfredo," a Government source said.
Mr Monteiro said that "AP" allegedly knew about the attacks before they happened "but did not tell the state". Seven other people also arrested in secret raids at the weekend have been released.
Pires' mother Maria, 68, who lives in Darwin, last night wondered why her daughter should have to face jail.
"Our family fought hard for independence. It seems so unjust that my daughter might be sent to prison," Mrs Pires said.
She remembers sheltering her seven children from bombardment in the mountain town of Maubisse during the 1975 civil war before arriving in Darwin as a refugee on a plane overloaded with people.
The Pires family soon became respected for their stand against Indonesia's military occupation of East Timor.
Angelita, a bright student, worked at Coles supermarket and Darwin and Brisbane casinos, as the family did not have money for her to attend university.
In 1999, she returned to East Timor as an interpreter for the UN's serious crimes unit.
Her late father, Laurentino, a Portuguese-era administrator, was arrested over the hijacking of an Australian military plane from East Timor in 1975.
Angelita Pires is protected by UN police as she appears at the Dili Court House.
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