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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (June 25, 2001 - The National/PINA Nius Online)---The political arm of the West Papuan independence movement has denied that one of its leaders charged with subversion fled to Papua New Guinea from Indonesia’s Irian Jaya.

The West Papuan Presidium said in a statement that Don Flassy was in Papua New Guinea to launch a book he co-authored with a University of Papua New Guinea language professor, Dr. Otto Nekitel.

The Secretary of the Panel Pacific of the Papua Council, Clemens Runawery, said the statement followed news reports from Indonesia that Mr. Flassy had fled to Papua New Guinea during his trial.

Mr. Flassy is among five West Papuan independence leaders Indonesian authorities have accused of violating Article 106 and 110 of the Indonesian Criminal Code. This carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a minimum sentence of five years in jail.

Also charged are Theys Hiyo Eluay, Reverend Herman Awom, Mohammed Thaha Alhamid and John S. Mambo.

Demands for independence have been mounting in Irian Jaya.

"I want to make it absolutely clear to authorities in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia that Mr. Flassy is on a genuine official visit to PNG," said Mr. Runawery. "He came at the invitation of the University of Papua New Guinea to attend the official launching of a book of which he is a co-author."

The book, titled "Proceedings of an International Conference on New Guinea Languages," was launched in Port Moresby on Wednesday night at a function attended by officials from the Indonesian Embassy as well.

"Mr. Flassy did not run away from the trial," Mr. Runawery said. His presence in Papua New Guinea is legitimate, as he entered the country with official travel documents."

Mr. Flassy told those present at the book launching that he had not fled his home and would return in due time.

The Jakarta Post newspaper said Mr. Flassy was reported to have fled across the border as a panel of judges overruled a defense statement in the case involving another pro-independence leader, Mr. Eluay.

Defense lawyers told the court that last year's Papua Congress, which concluded by demanding that Jakarta recognize West Papua's sovereignty, could not be considered subversive.

"We told the court that the congress results were not just the aspirations of the five defendants but of the entire Papuan community," the lawyers were quoted as saying by the Jakarta Post.

But the Jakarta Post said the judges rejected Theys' defense statement, saying it is against the existing Criminal Code.

During the Papua Congress, the Papua Presidium called on the Indonesian government to recognize a 1961 declaration of independence by the people of the former Dutch colony.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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