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Former Rebels Go to Court Over Plot to Kill East Timor's President

Former rebels have gone on trial in East Timor accused of the attempted murder of President Jose Ramos-Horta. He was seriously hurt in an assassination attempt outside his home in February 2008, when gunmen targeted two of the fledgling country's most senior political figures.

Prosecutors charge that the mastermind behind the assassination attempts on East Timor's leadership was an East Timorese-born Australian, Angelita Pires.

She was in a relationship with rebel leader Alfredo Reinado, who was killed in the attack on President Ramos-Horta.

The prosecutors say Pires urged Reinado to murder East Timor's political elite.

She has gone on trial in the capital, Dili, along with 26 suspected rebel gunmen. The case is expected to last several months.

Pires strongly denies the charges and insists she is the victim of a conspiracy.

"This whole thing is a charade. It is a set up," Pires said. "I am innocent and I am going to stand up and I am going to tell the world that Timor Leste [East Timor] has no justice. It works to serve the interest of half a dozen powerful entities. There is no justice for the common citizen."

Pires' legal team calls the case against her "hopelessly inadequate and unfounded".

She is accused of involvement in the 2008 attack on President Ramos-Horta outside his home in Dili, which left him with life-threatening gunshot wounds.

Only swift medical treatment from international peacekeepers saved him, before he was flown to the northern Australian city of Darwin for surgery.

The shooting of Mr. Ramos-Horta and the attempted assassination of then Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, who escaped unharmed, forced the authorities to declare a state of emergency.

The suspects in the attacks are former soldiers, who had been on the run since violent anti-government demonstrations in 2006 left more than 30 people dead.

The protests were caused by the government's decision to fire 600 soldiers who went on strike complaining about pay and discrimination.

The unrest prompted the intervention of international peacekeepers from Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Portugal.

East Timor continues to struggle to build stability and boost its weak economy seven years after gaining independence from Indonesia in 2002.