Irian Jaya Independence Leaders to Reject Early Jail Releases

Published December 21st, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Independence leaders jailed on subversion charges in Indonesia's remote Irian Jaya province have vowed to reject any attempt by President Abdurrahman Wahid or police to free them early, one of their lawyers said Thursday. 

"All five have made a commitment to stay in jail until the legal process is complete. They want to keep following the legal procedures," Anum Siregar, a member of the defence team, told AFP by phone from the capital Jayapura. 

The detainees, all key figures of the 31-member pro-independence Papua Presidium, have been charged with subversion for advocating that the eastern province should secede from Indonesia. 

Presidium chairman Theys Eluay, secretary-general Thaha Al Hamid, and members Don Flassy and John Mambor, were arrested in the two days preceding the December 1 anniversary of an unrecognised declaration of independence. 

A fifth member, Reverend Herman Awom, was arrested on December 4. 

Wahid, who will visit Irian Jaya on Christmas Day, has twice said he wants Eluay and his colleagues released, according to two Irian Jaya community leaders who have met separately with him. 

Police were also considering releasing the Presidium members on humanitarian grounds in time for Christmas, national police spokesman Brigadier General Saleh Saaf said Wednesday. 

Siregar however said the five would reject any release order based on either humanitarian or political reasons. 

"Firstly, they will not accept humanitarian-motivated release, nor will they accept release as a political move by Gus Dur," she said, using Wahid's nickname. 

Siregar said it was expected the president would again push for their release during his Christmas visit. 

State prosecutors earlier this week extended the Presidium leaders' detention by another 40 days, rejecting dossiers compiled by police detectives as incomplete and demanding a more thorough investigation. 

Thaha Al Hamid said the prosecutors deemed the evidence police had handed to them as "unusable." 

"It is utterly clear that until today the police have come up with no acceptable evidence," he told AFP by mobile phone from his police cell. 

The Presidium leaders were arrested as part of Jakarta's renewed crackdown on separatist movements at both ends of the Indonesian archipelago. 

On its far north-western tip, the staunchly Muslim province of Aceh -- like Irian Jaya, rich in minerals and timber -- guerillas with the Free Aceh movement have been fighting for an independent Muslim state since the mid-1970s. 

The government is refusing to renew an official truce with the guerillas -- under which killings and disappearances have escalated -- and has ruled out direct peace talks with the rebels beyond the truce's January 15 expiry date. 

The defense minister and military figures have also raised the possibility of a new military operation in Aceh. 

In their crackdown on separatism, hardliners in the government have banned Irian Jaya's separatist flag, rejected a name change proposed by Wahid, and sent in extra security forces, who have shot dead at least 12 people defying the flag ban this month. 

Independence supporters in Irian Jaya, known locally as West Papua, maintain they were robbed of their sovereignty, declared on December 1 1961, after Indonesian troops began entering in 1962. 

Indonesian sovereignty was formalized in 1969 through a limited UN-held vote, which separatists dispute as flawed and unrepresentative -- JAKARTA (AFP) 



© 2000 Al Bawaba (

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