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Up to 50 political prisoners to be released this week

Agence France Presse - December 21, 1998 (abridged)

Jakarta – Indonesia will release between 40 and 50 political prisoners, including East Timorese, later this week but top East Timorese rebel leader Xanana Gusmao will not be among them, a minister said Monday.

The figures were announced by Justice Minister Muladi after accompanying President B.J. Habibie for a meeting at the Institution for the Implementation of the Law, Human Rights, Democracy, and National Political Strategy, the official Antara news agency said.

"Xanana's release is related to the East Timor issue," Justice Minister Muladi said, explaining why he was not to be among those freed. Muladi did not give details or the identities of those to be released but said they would all be freed under a presidential pardon or following a reduction of their sentences. The release should bring to the number of political prisoners freed since the fall of president Suharto in May to about 150.

On November 12, Cooperatives Minister Adi Sasono said the government was planning to release some 100 political prisoners in the following weeks. "We'll be freeing those imprisoned for differences of opinion but not those who have killed," Sasono said then.