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Indonesian police arrest Papuan student on treason charge

Supporters of Simon Carlos Magal reject claim, say they are at a loss as to why post-grad student is in custody

Indonesian police arrest Papuan student on treason charge

Police in Papua's Timika district have arrested Simon Carlos Mahal, 26, on treason charges. (Photo supplied)

Rights activists in the restive Indonesian province of Papua have expressed concern over the fate of a student arrested on treason charges.

Simon Carlos Magal, 26, was arrested in Timika district on Sept. 1 after leaving the office of the Anti-Violence and Human Rights Foundation, a local human rights group.

His aunt Yosepa Magal Alomang told ucanews.com her nephew was being held incommunicado.

"His mobile phone was confiscated, so the family do not know his whereabouts," said Alomang, who is also a rights activist.

Timika police chief, Agung Marlianto, later confirmed the arrest and the treason charge but refused to say what the accused was supposed to have done.

"Magal has been transferred to police headquarters in Jayapura [for further questioning]," Marlianto was quoted by local news portal SuaraPapua.com, as saying.

According to Alomang, her nephew was not involved in any subversive activities and was preparing to leave for Australia as a post-graduate student.

However, Magal was known to have written papers on the situation in Papua and taken part in some group discussions, leading to speculation by some observers that the authorities were uncomfortable with the thought of him going to Australia and becoming a potential thorn in their side.

A long-running separatist insurgency has gripped Papua since it was incorporated into Indonesia after a widely criticized U.N.-backed referendum in 1969.

Local lawmaker Laurens Kadepa, said he had tried to visit Magal at the police detention facility to make sure he was not being maltreated. However, police refused him access.

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Father John Djonga, a well-known human rights defender in Papua, said Magal's arrest was another blot on Indonesia's record of human rights enforcement in the province.

"Accusations of treason have become an arbitrary tool used against Papuans," Father Djonga said, adding, "repressive measures escalate conflict."

In March, this year, Yanto Awerkion, a member of the pro-independence West Papua National Committee was handed a ten-month jail sentence for treason by an Indonesian court, for helping to organize a petition calling for West Papuan independence.

In December 2016, four students were arrested on treason charges in Manado for allegedly having pro-independence views, according to activists.

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