Subject: AFP: Jailed E.Timorese leader announces "general amnesty"
Date: Wed, 25 Aug 1999 05:38:58 EDT

Jailed East Timorese leader announces "general amnesty"

JAKARTA, Aug 25 (AFP) - Jailed independence leader Xanana Gusmao said Wednesday the pro-independence camp would not seek retribution for "political crimes" committed in East Timor.

Speaking ahead of Monday's historic self-rule vote for the troubled territory, he announced an amnesty which he said was aimed at promoting reconciliation among East Timorese.

"For reconciliation to be effective, we will proclaim general amnesty for all political crimes committed until now," Gusmao said, reading from a statement given to reporters at his Jakarta house jail.

Many have aired fears that a bloodbath will follow the August 30 UN-held poll in East Timor regardless of the outcome -- autonomy under Indonesia or independence.

An anti-separatist militia leader, Tito Batista, warned starkly on Tuesday that war could ensue if autonomy is rejected.

But Gusmao, who also called for "an immediate end to violence" in the region, adopted a conciliatory stance toward his enemies among the militias, which are blamed for widespread intimidation ahead of the vote.

He said an independent East Timor would "welcome in its bosom all the East Timorese, regardless of the positions they assumed in the past.

"I particularly refer to those who are part of the pro-integration paramilitary forces," said the guerrilla leader, who was jailed for 20 years in 1992 but transferred to house arrest in February.

"This decision is a mature one, taken after careful consideration ... this act of generosity concerns our emotion, heals wounds and elevates the soul of our people," he said.

The United Nations has also aired worries of escalating violence after the landmark vote in East Timor.

The UN Security Council is currently finalizing what steps it will take to ensure a peaceful East Timor emerges from the ballot, a spokesman for the UN Mission in East Timor said in the territory's capital Dili earlier Wednesday.


Thousands of pro-independence supporters flood Dili

DILI, East Timor, Aug 25 (AFP) - Over 10,000 independence supporters paraded through the streets of Dili on Wednesday pressing for a free East Timor ahead of a vote next Monday on the territory's future. Thousands gathered at the new offices of the National Resistance Council of East Timor (CNRT) to hear speeches by leaders of the pro-independence front.

"They want to come out and say that we are still here, that we will not be intimidated," CNRT coordinator David Ximenes said.

The crowd later listened to a recorded speech by jailed independence leader Xanana Gusmao and sang and danced, before setting off in trucks, buses, motorcycles and on foot in a massive procession that criss-crossed Dili.

"This is a testimony, it proves that the people want freedom and independence for their country," CNRT official Leandro Isaac commented as the massive procession passed by.

Many waved the flag of the independence cause in the former Portuguese colony and held framed pictures of Gusmao or wore T-shirts bearing his face.

Whole families sat or stood in front of their houses, cheering the passing parade. Some dressed in their Sunday best others were barefoot in rags. Some threw water on marching participants sweating under the sweltering sun.

Police estimates given to the UN Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) put the crowd at some 10,000, but others said the total was greater.

Shouts of "Viva Timor Leste!" ("Long live East Timor!") and "Viva Xanana" resounded throughout the multitude.

"Our suffering has not been in vain," said one man whose friends waved the blue, white and green independence flag.

On Tuesday, pro-autonomy supporters paraded through Dili in trucks and buses urging people to vote to stay with Indonesia, which forcibly annexed East Timor in 1976 in a move never recognised by the United Nations.

Meanwhile UNAMET spokesman Hiro Ueki announced at a regular briefing that an additional 50 polling supervisors would arrive from Darwin in northern Australia on Wednesday.

Ueki also said the number of polling stations for the August 30 vote had been increased from 700 to 850, grouped around 200 polling centers, to accommodate the large number who had registered.

The number of independent observers, apart from the 50 Portuguese and 50 Indonesian observers, has risen to 1,600.

Eeki also reported new incidents of pro-Indonesian militia intimidation in the west of the territory that had forced "several thousand" people to flee the places they were registered to vote in.

"The internally displaced people continue to be targets of the militia," Ueki said.

"There are reports of shortages of medical assistance and food supplies," he added.

He said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees was sending three convoys, starting Wednesday, to the towns of Maubara, Suai and Atabara to bring supplies to the refugees.

He also said that in Maliana, one of the areas where militia intimidation has been most intense, UNAMET was in talks with Indonesian police to beef up the latter's presence there on polling day.

They are "discussing measures to increase their presence, and to patrol the roads in the area accompanied by UN civilian police to ensure voters can reach the polling stations."

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has blamed the militias, which many observers charge are backed by the Indonesian army, for some of the worst violence that has already twice forced the historic vote to be postponed.

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