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JAKARTA, Indonesia (April 7, 2001 – Indonesia Observer/Antara/Kabar-Irian)---Irian Jaya's pro-independence leader Theys Eluay was criticized yesterday for filing a request for a pardon from President Abdurrahman Wahid.

A local human rights watchdog said that by making the request Theys is assuming a guilty verdict, yet the trial is still proceeding.

Albert Rumbekwan, the coordinator of a human rights monitoring body in Irian Jaya, also known as West Papua, said that his willingness to ask Wahid to pardon him, Theys assumed that he will be charged guilty.

"He [Theys] should not have done that. Because technically, once he requests a pardon, he is essentially admitting guilt, but in fact the trial against him is still proceeding and he has not as yet been determined guilty," said Rumbekwan in Jayapura, the capital of the province as reported by Antara yesterday.

He suspected that there is another interest behind Theys' willingness to ask for a pardon. "Along with Theys' pardon request, there will be other interests that follow shortly."

Rumbekwan also criticized Theys' lawyers, who allowed their client to propose such a request. He said that the lawyers have to act on his, Theys' behalf until the court has issued the final verdict.

"And if Theys wanted to propose a pardon, it is supposed to be conducted after sentencing. In this case, they took a totally unorthodox path. They let Theys publicly propose a pardon before the legal process against him is complete," Rumbekwan explained.

Rumbekwan stressed that it had undermined the public faith in the law to carry out justice.

According to Rumbekwan, if the trial process continues and is closely monitored, it will uncover the motives as to why Theys and his followers insisted upon declaring an independent state in Irian Jaya.

Meanwhile, Theys' lawyer Anum Siregar said that they sent the pardon proposal to the presidential office on March 8 and have yet to receive a response.

Theys and his subordinates in the pro-independence Papua Presidium Council, Thaha Al-Hamid, John Mabor, Reverend Herman Awom and Don Flassy, were charged with treason as they declared independence in Papua during the Papua People's Congress, which convened in early June 2000.

Presidential spokesman Adhie Massardi on Thursday said Wahid would not respond to Theys' request for a pardon until after a court has made a decision on his case.

Wahid had promised to pardon Theys if convicted over separatist activities last year.

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