Nearly 1500 Free Aceh Movement rebels will be freed this month as part of an accord signed between the government and separatist rebels in Finland on Monday to end three decades of fighting.

Another 447 will be released on Wednesday to mark 60 years of Indonesian independence from Dutch and Japanese colonial rule, said Zulhakil Mubin, the chief correctional officer in the province.

"All but six are in prisons in Aceh," he said. "The others are in Jakarta."
 
Indonesia regularly shortens jail sentences for well-behaved prisoners on 17 August, but officials said the Justice Ministry had been particularly generous towards Acehnese political prisoners this year because of the peace accord.

Those convicted of criminal acts will stay in jail.

Prisons swept away

The release marks Indonesian
independence celebrations

Among those being released on Wednesday were 156 inmates who turned themselves in to authorities after the 26 December tsunami hit coastlines across Asia, killing 131,000 people in Aceh and destroying much of the province's infrastructure.

Two prisons were swept away, one in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh and the other in the nearby village of Lhokgna, killing hundreds of rebel inmates, said Teuku Darwin, the regional head of Aceh's Justice Ministry.

It was not clear how many survived the killer waves and escaped, but at least 156 reported their whereabouts to authorities, many after helping other tsunami survivors, Mubin said.

Political clout

Imprisoned Aceh rebels have
been offered amnesty

Earlier this week, the Indonesian government signed an agreement with separatist fighters to end a civil war that has killed nearly 15,000 people since 1976.

The accord became possible after the Free Aceh Movement agreed to renounce its demand for full independence and to disarm.

In return, the government will withdraw thousands of troops from the province, and has offered the rebels the right to political representation and amnesty.

Justice and Human Rights Minister Hamid Awaluddin predicted that the 1482 other rebel inmates eligible for release would be freed next week.