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Subject: AFP: Indonesia to decide on Xanana's fate after tripartite talks
Date: Wed, 23 Dec 1998 15:42:54 +0000
From: Tapol

Received from Joyo

Indonesia to decide on Xanana's fate after tripartite talks

JAKARTA, Dec 23 (AFP) - The release of jailed East Timorese rebel leader Xanana Gusmao will depend on the outcome of ongoing UN-sponsored peace talks between Indonesia and Portugal, Indonesian Justice Minister Muladi said Wednesday.

"We will maintain our position and wait for the final solution on East Timor resulting from the tripartite talks," Muladi (Eds: one name) told reporters here before attending a cabinet meeting at the state palace.

Muladi said UN special envoy for East Timor Jamsheed Marker on Tuesday asked him to consider Xanana's release, because his "strategic position" could benefit the talks if he were directly involved.

"But, we still see Xanana as someone from the pro-independence group. On the other hand there are others who are pro-integration.

"The decision (to release Xanana) should not cause protests against us (by pro-integrationists), therefore let us wait for an agreement to be reached in the tripartite dialogue by the end of January -- whether (the release) is in the agenda," Muladi said.

He also stressed that Xanana was guilty of "a lot of murders in the past."

On Monday Muladi announced that the government will later this week release between 40 and 50 political prisoners, including East Timorese, but said Xanana would not be among them.

"Xanana's release is related to the (solution of) East Timor issue," Muladi said in explanation.

The justice minister said the new releases this week would all come under a presidential pardon or in a reduction of the prisoners' sentences.

The release would bring the number of political prisoners freed by the government of President B.J. Habibie since the fall of former president Suharto in May to about 150.

Xanana is serving a 20-year jail sentence in Jakarta's Cipinang Prison for plotting against the state and illegal possession of firearms.

East Timor Bishop, Nobel laureate Carlos Ximenes Felipe Belo, has urged the government to include Xanana in peace efforts for the troubled territory, saying that otherwise the problem would drag on endlessly.

Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 and annexed it a year later, in a move never recognized by the United Nations and most countries.

Marker, the special envoy of UN secretary general Kofi Annan for East Timor, left here Wednesday after a nine-day visit during which he won assurances from Habibie that Indonesia was committed to the tri-partite talks in New York.

During Marker's visit Jakarta also named two diplomats to be assigned to the Indonesian interests section in Lisbon, scheduled to open in January along with a Portuguese interests section in Jakarta, marking the first thaw in diplomatic relations between the two, severed by Portugal after the 1975 invasion.

TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign, 25 Plovers Way, Alton Hampshire GU34 2JJ Tel/Fax: 1420 80153 Email: Defending victims of oppression in Indonesia, East Timor, West Papua and Aceh, 1973-1998

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