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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 March 2007, 09:25 GMT
East Timor former minister jailed
Rogerio Lobato waves to supporters before the start of his trial (9 January 2007)
Mr Lobato's trial was held in East Timor's capital Dili
East Timor's former interior minister has been jailed for seven-and-a-half years for fuelling last year's unrest.

Rogerio Lobato was found guilty of abuse of power and of distributing weapons illegally to militias charged with eliminating government opponents.

The violence erupted a year ago after Mr Alkatiri's dismissal of 600 soldiers triggered street battles between police factions and the army.

Some 37 people were killed and 150,000 people forced to flee their homes.

Sentencing Mr Lobato, judge Ivo Nelson Batista said: "As a member of the government he was responsible for internal security, but failed to prevent the violence."

The former minister smiled as he was escorted to a prison in the capital Dili after the verdict, the Associated Press reports.

Gang violence

The trial, held at a high security courthouse in Dili, had heard Mr Lobato supplied weapons to a rebel leader who said he had been hired to act against opponents of the government.

Mr Lobato claimed he was acting on the orders of Mr Alkatiri, a close political ally.

Both Mr Alkatiri and Mr Lobato resigned last June under intense pressure from President Xanana Gusmao and others.

The two months of violence began with clashes between different factions of the security forces but spilled into ethnic and gang violence.

A tense calm was restored after some 3,000 Australian peacekeepers were deployed. Around 1,100 peacekeepers remain.

East Timor gained independence in 2002 after a period of UN stewardship. It was ruled by Indonesia for 24 years before its people voted overwhelmingly in 1999 in favour of breaking away from Jakarta.

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