Indonesia presidential candidate Prabowo removed from Australia visa black list

In this file photograp taken on June 22, 2014, Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto salutes supporters during campaign rally in Jakarta. Australia has removed the name of Prabowo Subianto, one of Indonesia's most controversial Suha
In this file photograp taken on June 22, 2014, Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto salutes supporters during campaign rally in Jakarta. Australia has removed the name of Prabowo Subianto, one of Indonesia's most controversial Suharto-era generals from a visa black list, in case he wins Wednesday's presidential election, an Australian newspaper reported. -- PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY - Australia has removed the name of Prabowo Subianto, one of Indonesia's most controversial Suharto-era generals from a visa black list, in case he wins Wednesday's presidential election, an Australian newspaper reported.

Mr Prabowo, who was married to a daughter of Suharto, has returned from a period of ignominy and exile to make a spectacular entry into democratic politics.

In recent weeks he has drawn neck-and-neck with his rival, Joko Widodo, despite persistent allegations of discipline violations and human rights abuses during his time in the military, including while commanding special forces in East Timor in the 1980s and heading the Kostrad strategic command in Jakarta at the time of his father-in-law's downfall in 1998.

Mr Prabowo has admitted to abducting 23 student activists in Jakarta in the dying days of the Suharto regime, while denying all knowledge of why 13 of those activists have never resurfaced.

Such allegations led to visa bans in the United States, preventing him from attending his son's graduation in 2000.

They also led to a visa ban in Australia, which has not been publicly acknowledged, and which it seems Mr Prabowo has not tried to test, The Age reported on Tuesday.

"The formulation from high-ranking (Department of Foreign Affairs ) officials has always been: 'If he applied for one, he wouldn't get it'," said Marcus Mietzner, an expert on elite Indonesian politics at the Australian National University.

The recent surge in Mr Prabowo's electoral fortunes, however, appears to have cured his visa troubles and ensured he will have no trouble attending the Brisbane G20 leaders' forum in November, should he be elected president.

"The Australian government will work closely with whoever is elected president of Indonesia," said a spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. "Presidents of Indonesia will always be welcome in Australia."