WEST PAPUA KIDNAPPERS TO FREE BELGIANS AUGUST 1

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JAYAPURA, Irian Jaya (July 23, 2001 - Jakarta Post/Kabar-Irian)---Irianese kidnappers have agreed to release on August 1 two Belgian filmmakers they have taken hostage for almost two months, once their demands are met, a church negotiator said on Saturday.

Rev. Benny Giay told reporters in Jayapura, the capital of the easternmost Indonesian province of Irian Jaya, that the abductors had demanded a meeting with the Belgian ambassador to Indonesia.

"The TPNP leaders want to meet directly with the Belgian Ambassador to Indonesia and wish to talk to him," the Reverend said, referring to the National Liberation Army for Free Papua, a splinter group of Irian separatist rebels.

If a deal is reached, the Ambassador will witness the release, which is expected to be widely covered by the international media, according to Benny.

The second condition is that the hostages -- Johan Van den Eynde, 47, and Philippe M. Simon, 49 -- are treated as special envoys of Papuan students to facilitate the Papuan independence struggle.

"If the two demands are met, the two hostages will at once be released," Benny added.

Benny quoted the rebels as saying that the reason behind the hostage taking is to gain attention from the international community, particularly member countries of the European Union.

"They want to show the international community that Papuans are now demanding their basic right to be free in their own land," Benny said.

"The kidnappers also ask the Indonesian Military to refrain from taking measures against people around the area during and after the release."

Benny and Catholic priest Theo van den Broek called a media conference shortly after they had arrived from a meeting with the kidnappers in the remote village of Gome in the Ilaga district of Puncak Jaya regency.

The church officials met with leaders of the TPNP for the Puncak Jaya area, the brothers Titus and Penny Murif, on Thursday and Friday.

Benny and van den Broek have been mediating between the Irian Jaya authorities and the rebels since the Belgian filmmakers were taken hostage late in May.

KABAR-IRIAN ("Irian News") Websites: http://www.irja.org/index2.shtml  and http://www.kabar-irian.com 

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