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Papuans demand political prisoner release

Protest after independence leader's arrest

<p>Papuan activists rally in Jakarta for release of political prisoners</p>

Papuan activists rally in Jakarta for release of political prisoners

  • Ryan Dagur, Jakarta
  • Indonesia
  • May 17, 2013
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Papuan activists have called on the Indonesian government to free all political prisoners, days after police arrested independence movement leader Victor Yeimo and four other protesters.

At least 72 people are being held by Indonesian authorities, the activists say.

Around 30 activists rallied in front of the state palace in Jakarta yesterday, undeterred by a growing climate of hostility towards Papuan dissidents.

Members of the National Papuan Solidarity (NAPAS) and the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS), say that 32 Papuans have been arrested since April for separatist activities.

According to papuansbehindbars.org, at least 40 political prisoners had already been detained on charges that include treason, raising the separatist Morning Star flag, and affiliation to the Free Papua Movement .

“The number will continue to go up, considering that conditions in Papua remain in chaos,” Zely Ariane, from NAPAS, told protesters. “It is only in Papua that the government limits people’s public activities. It doesn’t happen in other parts of Indonesia.”

Five men, including independence movement leader Victor Yeimo, remain in detention after being arrested on Monday. They had been protesting against the killing of three separatist activists by security forces in early May, and reports have circulated that two of the group arrested this week have been tortured.

Political prisoners in Papuan jails have struggled to access adequate healthcare and activists have instead sought donations for medicine and supplies.

Akbar Hadi, head of communications at the Directorate General of Correctional Facilities of the Law and Human Rights Ministry, said during a discussion this week that limited funds were to blame for poor healthcare for prisoners.

“A prisoner has only a thousand rupiah [about US$0.1] for first aid,” he said, adding that the ministry had not discriminated against Papuan political prisoners.

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