José Alexandre "Xanana" Gusmão

Sakharov Prize Laureate 1999
xanana Xanana Gusmão is known as the "Mandela of Timor". Recognised as a leader and symbol of the Timorese resistance who aimed to bring an end to the armed conflict for independence from Indonesia, he had just been released from prison, where he had served seven years of a 20-year jail term on charges of separatism, when the EP awarded him the Sakharov Prize in December 1999.

When the Portuguese withdrew from East Timor, Indonesia began a policy of destabilising its neighbour. On 7 December 1975, Indonesia invaded. Gusmão went underground and in 1978 became leader of the military wing of the Revolutionary Front for the Independence of East Timor (FRETILIN).

The violence which accompanied the invasion cost an estimated 200 000 lives, but failed to break the people's determination to resist. Xanana Gusmão sought to secure a peaceful solution to the conflict by proposing a peace plan and talks under UN supervision to the Indonesian Government. In 1986 he managed to bring together the various political and social groupings to form the Timorese National Resistance Council (TNRC).

However, on 20 November 1992 Xanana Gusmão was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment, subsequently reduced to 20 years. But the Timorese resistance held and massive international pressure was brought to bear on Indonesia for his release. When freed in September 1999 - shortly after the referendum of 30 August, in which 80% of the population of East Timor had voted for independence - Gusmão promised 'to do everything in my power to bring peace to East Timor and my people'. In April 2002, in the first free presidential elections held in East Timor, Gusmão was elected with almost 83% of the votes. On 20 May 2002 UN Secretary General Kofi Annan officially declared the Democratic Republic of East Timor an independent state and Gusmão served as President until May 2007. In 2008 he survived an assassination attempt. He currently serves as Prime Minister, and in August 2014 declared his intention to continue in office, though he had previously announced his intention to step down in 2014.

In 2013, he participated in the Sakharov Prize Network Conference.

On the Ebola outbreak in 2014, to the fight against which East Timor contributed a million dollars, Gusmao warned at the UN that 'this emergency serves as a stark reminder that all development shocks are amplified by existing vulnerabilities and weak institutions'.