One of the national heroes of East Timor, long-serving foreign minister of the Fretilin liberation movement, joint winner of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize with Bishop Carlos Belo, and now confirmed as foreign minister of the country in the lead-up to independence.

He fled East Timor several days before the Indonesian invasion in 1975, and spent the intervening years touring the world drumming up support for his people's freedom against the genocidal occupation by Indonesia, which drew to an end with the collapse of the Suharto dictatorship. The Nobel Committee's recommendation helped the cause by drawing further attention to it when Indonesian annexation looked like a fait accompli.

Before then, under Portuguese rule, the young activist Ramos Horta had been banned from the territory for political agitation in 1970-1. In 1975 with the break-up of Portugal's colonial empire, Portuguese Timor declared its independence as the Democratic Republic of East Timor (DRET) under the leadership of Fretilin, and Ramos Horta became foreign minister. This was displaced by the Indonesian invasion shortly after but continued to fight guerrilla war from then on. Ramos Horta did not return to Timor until December 1999. Three of his brothers and a sister were killed in the genocide.

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