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West Papua activists face life in jail

Agence France Presse - June 21, 2000

Jakarta – Five civic leaders, who organised a landmark congress calling on Jakarta to recognise the independence of the Indonesian province of West Papua, face life imprisonment for suspected treason.

The five were questioned by police in the West Papuan capital of Jayapura on Monday over their involvement in the week-long Papuan National Congress. Under Indonesian law, fomenting separatism is a crime that carries a maximum punishment of a life sentence.

The congress called on Jakarta to recognise the sovereignty of the province, formerly known as Irian Jaya. Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid said the meeting was illegitimate as it had failed to represent the entire spectrum of society in West Papua.

The five are congress secretary Herman Awom, head of the organising committee Agustinus Alua, chief of the congress's steering committee Thaha Al-Hamid, head of the Papuan Independent Committee Don Al Flassy and former political prisoner Joh Mambor.

The activists' lawyer, Mr Demianus Wakman, said: "My clients came to police headquarters and were questioned separately on the Papuan Congress of Feb 23 to 26 and the Papuan National Congress of May 29 to June 4."