Article published on the 2009-04-03 Latest update 2009-04-04 09:35 TU
Fifteen activists have been arrested in the Indonesian region of Papua, following a demonstration involving around 10,000 calling for independence from Indonesia.
“The main demand is for a review of the Act of Free Choice, Papuan independence and investigation into all the human rights cases in West Papua,” says Paula Makabory, an activist from the Institute for Papuan Advocacy and Human Rights.
Marches were led by around 50 men wearing traditional penis gourds who led protesters through Nabire.
Although the demonstrations were peaceful, police arrested those involved in the organisation of the march, which did not have official clearance.
“The rally was banned by local authorities, so the people do the march gathering at the church, the number is more than 10,000 people,” Makabory told RFI.
“The youths and the students in West Papua are now on the front line, they organised themselves to do all the movement peacefully, to have their freedom of expression, to express their political demands."
Papua-based NGOs are working to provide legal aid for the arrested people, according to a statement by the Franciscan mission in the region, OFM.
They say that six people were arrested without warrants when police raided the offices of the Papua Customary Council in Wamena, about 15km from the main local city Jayapura. Police are reported to have found two pistols there.
Three other people were arrested in Wamena for participating in a rally to support the launch of International Lawyers for West Papua, according to an email received from the OFM's J Budi Hernawan. He adds that two people were arrested in Jayapura, having fled from another major town, Manokwari, and that they have been held without charge or access to lawyers.
Papua is part of the island of New Guinea and officially became part of Indonesia in a UN-backed vote in 1969, known as the Act of Free Choice.
But support for independence from Indonesia is high, and indigenous Papuans, or Melanesians, are ethnically different from Indonesians.
Foreign media are not granted access to the region, despite pressure by the International Federation of Journalists.