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1960 refugees may be able to return

Agence France Presse - December 27, 1998

Jakarta – Indonesian Justice Minister Muladi said Monday the country's new government may be open to the return of hundreds who fled the country in the 1960s after being charged with being communists.

"We may discuss the possibility, at an inter-departmental level between the foreign ministry, justice ministry, home ministry and also defense ministry as it is also related to security affairs," he said.

Maladi said there were about 500 Indonesians living in Europe who had fled after being branded followers of the outlawed Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). "There is as yet no request [for the return]. If it is requested, the problem will be discussed. But I cannot promise anything," Muladi told a news conference.

Former president Suharto imprisoned millions of members and followers of the PKI and banned the second largest communist party after China, after it was blamed for an attempted coup.

At least 500,000 people died in a bloody crackdown on the party in the aftermath of the coup attemnpt, which saw Suharto, then an army general, taking power from the country's first president Sukarno. As well as those who managed to flee to Europe, hundreds are known to have escaped to China and the Portuguese territory of Macao.

Communism is still outlawed under the government of Suharto's hand-picked successor, B.J. Habibie, but books by the country's most famous leftist author, Pramoedya Ananda Toer, are now allowed to be sold.