East Timor youth arrested over convent rapes

ast Timore police have arrested a teenage youth who is suspected of raping an 11 year old girl at a Catholic convent in Baucau diocese during violence that erupted after the naming of independence hero Xanana Gusmao as the country's new Prime Minister.

The United Nations Mission in East Timor said a 16-year-old male had been arrested on suspicion he raped an 11-year old student at an orphanage attached to the convent, Sign on San Diego reports.

'The suspect was arrested on August 11 and then escaped but surrendered again to police later in the day,' the mission said in a statement.

Violence has erupted in several districts in East Timor since President Jose Ramos-Horta appointed a coalition last week led by independence hero Xanana Gusmao to govern after no party won a majority in parliamentary elections on June 30.

Ramos-Horta's decision sparked violent protests by supporters of the former ruling party, Fretilin, which claims the right to govern after winning most votes in the polls.

It has branded the president's move as unconstitutional and pledged to boycott the new government, installed last week with Gusmao appointed as prime minister.

Factional bloodshed broke out in the impoverished country of about 1 million people last year, forcing tens of thousands to flee their homes.

The mayhem, during which 37 people were killed, was triggered by the previous government's decision to sack 600 soldiers.

About 3,000 international police and troops are currently in East Timor to restore order.

Meanwhile, police said 3,000 people had fled to the hills in Viqueque district since last week after their houses were torched.

Police in Baucau said they had arrested 71 people and seized home-made weapons.

'The situation in Baucau is now calm,' Baucau police chief Pedro Belo said, adding that Fretilin supporters were holding rallies in several villages.

Baucau and Viqueque are Fretilin strongholds.

Fretilin deputy secretary Jose Reis said supporters would continue to rally against the new government but would not engage in violence.

'Protesting is normal because the constitution gives us the right to protest against injustice and un-democractic acts,' he told reporters.

Meanwhile, UCA News reports that the Baucau diocese has expressed dismay over the events.

Father Francisco Pinheiro da Silva, vicar general of Baucau diocese, told the agency that unidentified men raped about nine girls, one of them only 8 years old and the others 15-17, at around 2 a.m. on 10 August in the Canossian Convent.

"Indications show that the brutality and immoral actions were done by Fretilin supporters," said Father da Silva, referring to supporters of the former ruling party.

Youth arrested over alleged rape at E.Timor convent (Sign on San Diego, 13/8/07)
East Timor (Wikipedia)
Xanana Gusmao (Wikipedia)

Church property targeted in East Timor (CathNews, 10/8/07) <
Ramos-Horta pledges support for Church (CathNews, 24/5/07)
Call for sacking of Catholic rep on Timor election body (CathNews, 17/4/07)
Ramos-Horta seeks Catholic nod for Timor presidency (CathNews, 26/2/07)
Indonesia-Timor commission promotes reconciliation (CathNews, 8/2/07)
First graduates from ACU Timor teachers course (CathNews, 23/11/06)
Former Timor PM blames Church over ouster (CathNews, 10/11/06)
East Timor situation calm for All Saints (CathNews, 3/11/06)
Nobel prize Bishop meets Timor rebels and ex-PM (CathNews, 27/10/06)
Men killed outside Dili Church as Timor's PM leaves to see Pope (CathNews, 24/10/06)
Timor bishop in bid to prevent new violence (CathNews, 13/10/06)
Timor highlanders back fugitive rebel with prayers (CathNews, 11/9/06)

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