LEADERS OF PAPUA INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENT CHARGED

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JAYAPURA, Irian Jaya (November 30, 2000 - ABC News Online Australia)---Key leaders of the independent movement in Papua, also known as Irian Jaya, have been taken into custody by Indonesian police.

The secretary general of the Papua Presidium Council has been charged with subversion for separatist activities, including raising Papua’s Morning Star independence flag.

Taha Al’Hamid is now being held at a police station guarded by heavily armed Indonesian troops.

If found guilty of subversion, he faces 20 years in jail.

Police have also been questioning Presidium president Chief Theys Eluay and they say they will detain him if he does not cooperate.

After hours of questioning, Chief Theys tried to walk out of the police station but was blocked by police.

He shouted to reporters: "They’re treating me like an animal."

Tension is mounting between Papua’s independence supporters and Indonesian security forces two days before the anniversary of a declaration of independence made in 1961 just before Indonesia took control of Papua from the colonial Dutch.

Hardline separatist groups are ready to declare independence from Indonesia on Friday.

For additional reports from ABC Australia News Online, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/ABC News Online.

 

INDONESIAN POLICE DETAIN IRIAN JAYA INDEPENDENCE LEADER

By Tom McCawley

JAKARTA, Indonesia (November 29, 2000 – Financial Times)---Indonesian police detained Theys Eluay, the Irian Jaya independence leader, on Wednesday only days before the province commemorates the 39th anniversary of an attempt to win independence.

Mr. Eluay told the FT from police custody in Jayapura, the capital of Irian Jaya, also known as West Papua, that police had given no clear reason why he was detained and he claimed he was held without proper documentation.

"This is an attempt to intimidate the leadership of West Papua," said Eluay, who chairs the Presidium Council, a 500-member grouping devoted to fighting for greater freedom for the province.

Mr. Eluay's interrogation comes two days after police arrested the Presidium Council’s secretary-general, Thaha Hamid, on subversion charges.

Brig. Gen. Sylvanus Wenas, Irian Jaya police chief, said Mr. Eluay was being questioned on the same charges.

Mr. Wenas said Indonesian police were committed to a peaceful dialogue with West Papuan leaders and militia groups linked to the independence movement but would act against any security disturbance.

West Papua is the latest separatist trouble zone to alarm Indonesia's central government in Jakarta. After East Timor's successful break away from Indonesia in a UN-supervised ballot in September 1999, Jakarta also faces an armed separatist rebellion in Aceh, the country's westernmost province.

The independence movement in West Papua has steadily become more vocal since President Suharto stepped down in May 1998 after 32 years of military-backed rule. Separatists were greatly encouraged by the decision of Abdurrahman Wahid, Indonesian president, to allow the raising of "Morning Star" independence flags in the region.

Mr. Eluay has close links to pro-independence militia groups known as Satgas Papua. He was escorted to jail by at least 200 bodyguards and supporters waving the "Morning Star" flags.

Mr. Eluay warned that hundreds of his followers would protest his detention. Police said they would act against any security disturbances.

Separatists had planned a day of demonstrations on December 1 to mark their declaration of independence from colonial rule in 1961, two years before Indonesia took over the region from Dutch colonial rule.

West Papuan leaders said they had never accepted the results of a UN- sanctioned ballot in 1969 in which 1000 tribal leaders hand-picked by Jakarta voted to become part of Indonesia, saying the vote was rigged.

Indonesian police and presidium council leaders have agreed to lower the independence flags by December 1.

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