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War of words over 'political prisoners'

Activists say there are dozens: government says they committed treason

  • Ryan Dagur, Jakarta
  • Indonesia
  • August 9, 2012
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The government holds dozens of political prisoners in the easternmost province of Papua, and they are subject to abuse and mistreatment, an activist claims.

Marthen Goo, head of National Papuan Solidarity, has called on the government to free them. “Our country is a democratic state, so why are there still political prisoners?” he asked yesterday during a discussion session in Jakarta.

His group says it knows of 40 people who are in jail for their political opinions. But the government maintains that any so-called political prisoners in the country are guilty of treason.

Dahana Putra of the Law and Human Rights Ministry said: “they were sent to jail based on Article 106 of the Indonesian Criminal Code on treason."

According to Papang Hidayat of the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence, the government discriminates against Papuans due to fears of sedition.

"Other groups do not face similar legal consequences when they engage in similar political expression," he said. For Papuans, political expression is seen to have a "separatist motive.”

Hidayat also pointed out that criticizing the government is not illegal.

According to National Papuan Solidarity, political prisoners also suffer mistreatment.

“According to our survey, they got improper medical treatment when they were sick. Five prisoners with critical health conditions had to be taken to hospitals by their families,” Goo said.

An alleged political prisoner named Kimanus Wenda had surgery on a stomach tumor in March. Before the surgery, activists met with Deputy Law and Human Rights Minister Denny Indrayana, who promised to cover the expenses. The promise was not kept, Goo said.

Wenda was accused of attacking a military warehouse in Wamena in 2003. He denies the charges, but was forced to sign a confession he could not read, according to Amnesty International. In January 2004 he was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment for “rebellion” under Articles 106 and 110 of the Criminal Code.

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