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Indonesia to deport two US citizens for Papua action

Associated Press - June 28, 2006

Jakarta – Indonesia plans to deport two US citizens after they were caught attending a meeting with separatist sympathizers in the country's eastern Papua province, an immigration official said Wednesday.

The two men, who were traveling on tourist visas, were detained on Monday at a meeting of the Papuan Tribal Council in the region's capital. The council peacefully campaigns for Indonesia's easternmost province to become an independent country.

"We plan to deport them soon," immigration office spokesman Muhammad Indra said. "We are going to call US embassy officials to let them know of the plan."

Authorities have released no details about the two men's identities or what they were doing at the meeting. But an immigration official on Tuesday said that attending the talks was a clear violation of the terms of their tourist visa.

Independence activists and a small band of poorly armed rebels have waged a more than 30-year campaign for a separate state of Papua, which is one of Indonesia's poorest regions despite abundant supplies of gas, timber, gold and copper.

International human rights groups claim at least 100,000 Papuans have died as a result of military action by Indonesian forces dealing with the insurgency, though clashes and killings in the province have dropped in recent years.

Indonesia has barred foreigners and reporters from visiting the region for much of the last four years, but restrictions have been relaxed recently.

Jakarta is very sensitive about foreign support for Papuan separatists. East Timor broke away in 1999 following a determined campaign by exiles and international activists.