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IRIAN JAYA, Indonesia (June 20, 2000 – Antara/Kabar Irian)---Five civic leaders who organized a landmark congress that called on Jakarta to recognize the independence of the Indonesian province of Irian Jaya, face possible life imprisonment for suspected treason, a press report said Tuesday.

The five were questioned by police in the Irian Jaya capital of Jayapura on Monday over their involvement in the weeklong Papuan National Congress which called for the province’s independence, the state Antara news agency said.

Under Indonesian law, fomenting separatism is a crime that carries a maximum punishment of a life sentence.

The congress ended in Jayapura on June 4 with a resolution reaffirming that West Papua -- the term the congress used for Irian Jaya -- has been independent since December 1961, and called on the Jakarta to recognize its sovereignty.

The five were Agustinus Alua, head of the organizing committee; Herman Awom, the congress' secretary; Thaha Al-Hamid, chief of the congress' steering committee; Don Al Flassy, head of the Papuan Independent Committee; and Joh Mambor, a former political prisoner.

"My clients came to the police headquarters and were questioned separately from 9.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. on the Papuan Congress of February 23-26 and the Papuan National Congress of May 29 - June 4," the lawyer for the five, Demianus Wakman, said.

The February congress was a meeting of the Papua Presidium, which resulted in the decision to hold the National Congress in May and June.

With the exception of Al-Hamid, the four others had already ignored a first police summons for questioning last week.

A sixth suspect, Theys Hiyo Eluay, who heads the Papua Presidium, did not come for questioning as he was in East Java.

Antara said that the five men questioned were suspected of treason for advocating separatism through their role in organizing the congress.

Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid had initially supported the holding of the conference and helped fund it.

But he cancelled plans to open it at the last minute and later dismissed the meeting as illegitimate, saying that it had failed to represent the entire spectrum of society in Irian Jaya.

Calls have since mounted in Jakarta for the government to take a firmer stance against separatists in regions such as Irian Jaya, and Aceh, another province where there is strong pressure for self-rule.

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