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Subject: Reuters - Indonesia to free political prisoners
Date: Tue, 22 Dec 1998 11:59:27 -0000
From: "Paula Carvalho Pinto" <paularoque@mail.telepac.pt>

Indonesia to free separatist rebels

December 21, 1998 Web posted at: 9:48 AM EST (1448 GMT)

JAKARTA, Dec 21 (Reuters) -- Indonesia plans to free 40 to 50 political prisoners soon, including separatist[sic!!] rebels from East Timor and Aceh, Justice Minister Muladi said on Monday.

"We hope the decree will be issued within one week," Muladi told reporters, adding the release had already been approved by Attorney General Andi Ghalib and armed forces chief and Defence Minister General Wiranto.

But Muladi said East Timor guerrilla leader Xanana Gusmao was not included in the list because talks about the fate of the former Portuguese colony were still under way. He gave no further details.

President B.J. Habibie has released about 100 political prisoners, including separatists, since replacing former President Suharto in May.

Suharto jailed thousands of dissidents during his army-backed 32-year rule which ended in disgrace amid political and economic turmoil.

Indonesia invaded the eastern half of Timor in 1975 after Portugal withdrew. Jakarta's rule is not recognised by the United Nations, which regards Portugal as the administering power.

Jakarta and Lisbon are due to resume U.N.-sponsored talks early next year to thrash out an internationally acceptable path for the troubled territory, where Indonesia has been locked in a low-level guerrilla war.

Earlier in 1998, Indonesia abandoned military operations in Aceh, in northern Sumatra, where Moslem separatists had been fighting for independence.

Copyright 1998 Reuters.

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