06/03/2010, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Hasan Tiro, leader of Aceh’s independence struggle, is dead

by Mathias Hariyadi
He was Indonesia’s Public Enemy Number One for a long time. Only yesterday, he had his Indonesian citizenship restored. His declaration of independence in 1976 unleashed a bloody civil war that left thousands of people dead. After years in exile in Sweden, he came back to his native land in 2008 upon invitation of President Yudhoyono.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Teungku Hasan Muhammad di Tiro, founder of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and better known as Hasan Tiro, died today in Banda Aceh, Nanggroe Aceh province, at the age of 85. The charismatic leader for Aceh independence died in his homeland, a day after he officially regained his Indonesian citizenship from Air Marshall (ret.) Djoko Suyanto, Minister of Legal, Security and Law Affairs.

Hasan Tiro had requested his Indonesian citizenship be restored, stressing that “the war is now over” and “I want to live peacefully in my native homeland in Aceh.”

Citizenship was granted yesterday, 2 June, in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh, from the hands of Irwandi Yusuf, Aceh governor and former GAM military chief, who handed the papers to Malik Mahmud, one of Hasan Tiro’s closest aide and a former GAM prime minister, and to Fauzi Abidin, a close friend of the Tiro family.

“Granting the citizenship was decided for humanitarian reasons and the much improved political situation in Aceh,” a government official said in Jakarta.

Malik Mahmud, who spent many years in exile in Sweden, said that he was happy that citizenship was granted because “it would strengthen the path of peace” in the Aceh.

Hasan Tiro set foot on his native soil in October 2008, after almost 30 years of exile, receiving a hero’s welcome. He had fled to Sweden on 29 March 1979.

Indonesia’s former Public Enemy Number One was able to come home on the invitation of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

On 4 November 1976, he declared the independence of Aceh province, unleashing a bloody civil war between the Indonesian armed forces and the rebels, which ended only in 2005 with the signing of a “truce” between the central government and rebel leaders, Hasan Tiro and Malik Mahmud.

The signing ceremony took place on 15 August 2005 in Helsinki, Finland.

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