RIGHTS GROUP CALLS FOR RELEASE OF NINE PAPUANS

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Activists arrested for raising forbidden flag

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, March 21, 2008) – A human rights group has called on the Indonesian government to free nine men facing charges of plotting against the state because of their involvement in a student protest.

The men were detained on March the 13th in Manokwari, West Papua, during a demonstration against a 2007 law banning the display of separatist symbols, including the outlawed Morning Star Flag.

The deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, Elaine Pearson, says if Indonesia wants recognition as a rights-respecting nation, it should stop imprisoning people for acts of peaceful expression.

Human Rights Watch says it takes no position on Papuan claims to self-determination, but it supports the right of all individuals, including independence supporters, to express their political views peacefully without fear of arrest or other forms of reprisal.

In the past, Papuan activists openly supporting separatism peacefully have been sentenced to 20 years in jail.

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