Indonesian election presents US with Narendra Modi-style visa headache

May 23 2014, 08:01 IST
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SummaryThe emergence of Prabowo Subianto as a serious contender in Indonesia's election this week means the United States faces the awkward possibility of having to welcome another Asian leader it had denied entry to because of alleged links to mass killings.

The emergence of Prabowo Subianto as a serious contender in Indonesia's election this week means the United States faces the awkward possibility of having to welcome another Asian leader it had denied entry to because of alleged links to mass killings.

The situation has arisen days after Washington found itself having to change course and promise a visa to Indian Prime Minister-Elect Narendra Modi after his landslide election win. Modi was barred from the United States in 2005.

The possibility of another Washington U-turn became apparent after Indonesia's second-largest party on Monday suddenly switched its support to Prabowo from frontrunner Joko "Jokowi" Widodo ahead of July 9 presidential polls.

Prabowo was once one of Indonesia's most reviled men, accused of kidnapping, human rights abuses and a coup attempt after the 1998 overthrow of his former father-in-law, the late President Suharto.

A New York Times report in March said that in 2000 the U.S. State Department denied the former general a visa to attend his son's university graduation in Boston, but has never said why.

Prabowo told Reuters in 2012 he was still refused a U.S. visa due to allegations that he instigated riots that killed hundreds just before Suharto's downfall. He has denied wrongdoing.

According to Amnesty International, Prabowo was dismissed from the Indonesian military in 1998 for his role, while commander of Special Forces Command (Kopassus), in the disappearance of political activists.

India's Modi was denied a U.S. visa in 2005 under the terms of a 1998 U.S. law which bars entry to foreigners who have committed "particularly severe violations of religious freedom."

He has been accused of links to religious riots in his home state of Gujarat in 2002 in which more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, died.

However, after Modi's party swept to victory in elections last week, U.S. President Barack Obama was quick to telephone his congratulations and invite the new leader of a country he has declared a vital strategic partner to the White House.

The State Department said Modi would be granted an A-1 visa accorded to heads of state. Modi has also has denied any wrongdoing and has never been prosecuted in India.

An A-1 visa carries with it diplomatic immunity and is issued automatically - unless opposed by Obama, who has the authority to deny entry to anyone who has committed "crimes against humanity or other serious violations of human rights, or who attempted or conspired to do so."

Asked if Prabowo would be

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