Jakarta's political prisoners demand freedom

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The Independent Online
POLITICAL prisoners in Indonesia yesterday demanded their immediate release, as the country's new president, B J Habibie, came under international pressure to bring about democratic reforms.

The state Antara news agency said that between 10 and 15 prisoners are likely to be released, but they will not include guerrillas fighting for the island of East Timor's independence or those jailed during anti- Communist witch- hunts in the 1960s and 1970s.

"We strongly refuse the use of the word 'amnesty'," said Sri Bintang Pamungkas, in a statement read aloud at Cipinang jail in Jakarta. "The correct words should be 'freed from any conditions at all' as freedom is really our right."

Mr Pamungkas was convicted last year of "insulting" President Suharto and sentenced to nearly three years in prison. Among the others who may be released are Muchtar Pakpahan, a trade union leader convicted of inciting riots, and Budiman Sudjatmiko, the leader of an illegal political party, who was sentenced to 13 years for subversion.

The opposition Muslim leader Amien Rais told reporters yesterday that President Habibie met with him and other opposition figures at the weekend and briefed them on his plans to reform Indonesia's political and economic life after 32 years of Suharto rule. Mr Rais said Mr Habibie planned to announce general elections in the next few days.

On Saturday, Ginandjar Kartasasmita, President Habibie's economics minister and the man responsible for dealing with Indonesia's financial crisis, joined the call for early elections.

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