Subject: Reuters: Indon to free all E.Timor prisoners after ballot
Date: Mon, 16 Aug 1999 07:11:17 EDT

Indonesia to free E.Timor prisoners after ballot

JAKARTA, Aug 16 (Reuters) - Indonesia will free all East Timorese political prisoners after the bloodied territory's U.N.-run independence vote on August 30, Justice Minister Muladi said on Monday.

``All of the East Timorese political prisoners would be freed when the direct ballot is completed,'' Muladi told reporters, without saying when.

The most prominent political prisoner is guerrilla leader Xanana Gusmao, who was moved to house arrest earlier this year under mounting international pressure and is regularly allowed to leave his house to meet foreign dignitaries and attend talks in Jakarta on the future of his homeland.

He is serving a 20-year term for leading the fight against Indonesia's often brutal rule over the territory, which is not recognised by the United Nations.

The U.N.-organised vote allows East Timorese to choose between independence or wide-ranging autonomy within Indonesia.

Jakarta has previously pledged to free Xanana whatever the outcome of the vote. Most diplomats and analysts believe East Timorese will overwhelmingly opt for independence if the vote is free and fair.

But pro-Jakarta militias have killed dozens of people, mainly civilians, this year in a bloody terror campaign to keep the eastern half of Timor island part of Indonesia.

Jakarta invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 and annexed it in the following year.

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