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Subject: AFP: 16 Flee East Timor Prison
Date: Sun, 11 Oct 1998 23:19:31 +1000

ASIA: 16 FLEE EAST TIMOR PRISON AS POPULATION PROTESTS

EDS: WITH INDON TIMOR PROTEST

JAKARTA, Oct 10 AFP - Sixteen inmates escaped from an Indonesian prison in the troubled territory of East Timor today as the population of the main city of Dili launched a "silent protest" against the Jakarta-appointed governor.

The inmates fled through the front gate as visitors were leaving the Becora state prison, the state-run Antara news agency and a prison official said by telephone from Dili.

"The inmates ran through the main gate along with people who were leaving when visiting hours ended," AG Mayun Mataram, prison ward at Becora prison in Dili,said.

Mataram said all 203 East Timorese held in Becora stormed the main gate, causing panic among the guards, who called for troops from the police mobile brigade (Brimob).

"In panic, the guards soon asked for help from Brimob, but by the time the troops came, 16 inmates had managed to escape by jumping across the fences," Mataram told Antara.

Many of the guards were today absent amid rumours there would be a big demonstration to demand that East Timor Governor Abilio Jose Osorio Soares step down, he said.

Only four of the usual 12 guards were on duty today, he said.

After the incident, the 187 inmates left in Becora were prohibited from wandering around the prison complex.

Meanwhile, hundreds of East Timorese civil servants launched a "silent protest" against a threat by the governor to fire them if they did not endorse Indonesia's proposal of autonomy for the former Portuguese colony.

The National Council of Timorese Resistance (CNRT) said in a separate communique received here that all inhabitants had been asked to stay home today, and the strike would be followed by mass street rallies tomorrow and on Monday.

Indonesia invaded East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, in 1975, and annexed the territory a year later after heavy fighting in a move never recognised by the United Nations and most countries.

United Nations-sponsored talks between Jakarta and Lisbon, which severed ties with Indonesia shortly after the invasion, have dragged on since 1983.

Since the fall of former president Suharto May 21, the new government of President BJ Habibie has offered to grant special autonomy to the troubled territory in return for international recognition of Indonesian sovereignty.

Indonesia and Portugal are currently discussing Jakarta's proposal.

AFP  10/10/98 21:48 AEST

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