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Madalena Hanjam’s Lawyer Calls to Acquit Client’s Case Featured

DILI: The failure of the District Court in Dilito explain why it is not answering high profile demands for appeal into the controversial corruption cases of former politicians has undermined its credibility, a lawyer on the investigation has said.

José Guterres, the lawyer for MadalenaHanjam said Friday the court’s failure to respond to appeal pleas since the sentencing if his client on December 20, was unacceptable.

Hanjam, the former Vice Minister for Health, was sentenced to four years jail along with Timor-Leste’s former Finance Minister Emilia Pires (seven years) by the District Court in Dili for “crimes of economic participation in business.” The pair were charged with corruptly awarding a $1 million contract to Pires’s husband’s construction company.

Hanjam and Pires have denied illegal involvement, seeking an appeal on the grounds judges lacked evidence, were biased and denied them a fair trial.

Prosecutors alleged the pair corruptly awarded two contracts for 260 special hydraulic and orthopedic beds to Dili’s Guido Valadares Hospital to Pires’s husband Warren Macleod's company Mac's Metalcraft, based in Melbourne.

However, the defencehas argued the duo never approved or signed the contracts.

Hanjam, was sentenced to four years for her role in the alleged corruption.

Prosecutors in Dili have now lodged an appeal to increase Pires' sentence to 10 years and Hanjam's sentence to seven.

A letter from February 2012 shows Pires had written to Hanjam, who was then vice minister for health, advising that her "request for funds … to purchase equipment has been approved by the prime Minister [XananaGusmao]".

"With this approval, your ministry can now proceed to start the implementation of this transaction," the letter said.

Both women have lodged appeals against their convictions.

Gusmao, now Timor-Leste’s Minister of Planning and Strategic Investment, recently wrote a separate letter to President TaurMatanRuak, proclaiming Pires's innocence and accusing the judiciary of corruption.

The court has made no public comment, but senior legal figures in Dili have defended the judicial process and accused Gusmao of political interference.

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