CHURCH MEDIATORS PLAN SECOND MEETING WITH IRIAN JAYA ABDUCTORS OF BELGIANS

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (July 15, 2001 - Joyo Indonesian News/AFP/TAPOL)---Church mediators are planning to meet the abductors of two Belgians next week in the remote Indonesian province of Irian Jaya to try to negotiate their release, one of the mediators said Sunday.

"We are planning to try to hold a second meeting with the abductors sometime next week," said Theo van den Broek, a mediator from the Roman Catholic Church.

Van den Broek was speaking from Makassar, in South Sulawesi, where he was stopping over on his way back to Jayapura, the capital of Irian Jaya, from Jakarta following consultations with Belgian diplomats and Indonesian officials.

"Meeting the abductors face to face is important for us, to enable us to decide on what to do next to get the release of the hostages," van den Broek said.

The two mediators, van den Broek and Benny Giay from the Protestant church, this month met the abductors of Philippe Simon, 49, and Johan van den Eynde, 47, in Ilaga on the central highlands of Irian Jaya.

The two Belgian documentary filmmakers were abducted in Indonesia's easternmost province last month. Police said they ignored advice not to travel in the area.

Van den Broek said the mediators would try to set up the meeting with the abductors by short side radio band

"We already know the abductors and we have contact with them through the SSB, but this mode of communication is dependant on good weather conditions," he said.

The abductors are a rag-tag group of armed rebels from the Free Papua Movement led by Titus Murip, although Murip presented himself as Kelly Kwalik in their first meeting, van den Broek said.

"We do not care any more who the abductors claim to be; what is important is that we are in contact with them and we are able to negotiate for the release of the hostages."

Van den Broek added that while in Jakarta, the mediators had received assurances from Indonesia's top security minister, Agum Gumelar, that they would be allowed to negotiate for the release and that they would not be hindered or harmed by the Indonesian security forces.

But van den Broek also cautioned against hopes for a quick release.

"It is a process which may take a long time, and we do not want to set a deadline," he said.

In their first meeting, the abductors made it known that they wanted to meet with Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid and officials at the United Nations to present their struggle for a free Irian Jaya.

Kelly Kwalik is the commander of the Papuan Liberation Army. He led the 1996 abduction of several researchers, including foreigners, in the same area. Two people were killed during a military operation to release them.

The Free Papua Movement has been fighting for an independent state of West Papua in predominantly Melanesian Irian Jaya since the 1960s. It consists of several small groups of armed men spread across the western half of New Guinea Island.

Earlier this year, two South Koreans working at a timber company were taken hostage by another group of Irian separatists before being released a few days later.

Paul Barber TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign 25 Plovers Way, Alton Hampshire GU34 2JJ Tel/Fax: 01420 80153 Email: plovers@gn.apc.org  Internet: www.gn.apc.org/tapol 

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