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Indonesia Must Release 152 Peaceful Protesters Jailed for Raising a Flag, Urges Amnesty International
Human Rights Organization Calls for Release of 21 Dancers Serving 7 to 20-Year Prison Sentences for Showing Flag at Performance
WASHINGTON - The Indonesian government
has arrested at least 152 people for activities related to the raising
of flags symbolizing regional independence over the past two years as part
of a crackdown in areas with a history of separatist movements, Amnesty
International revealed in a report released today.
At least 93 people are currently in detention
in Papua and Maluku for charges associated with flag-raising activities.
In the report, Indonesia: Jailed for raising
a flag - prisoners of conscience in Maluku, Amnesty International
documents how the Indonesian government has failed to distinguish between
peaceful political activists and armed groups in its response towards non-violent
pro-independence activities in Indonesia. Some of those detained were subjected
to torture and other ill-treatment during detention and interrogation.
Some were sentenced to imprisonment after unfair trials.
"In the past few years Indonesia has made
important advances in respecting free expression. But these cases show
that when the sensitive issues of regional independence are at stake, the
Indonesian government has made no distinction whatsoever between armed
separatist groups and peaceful political activists. This blurring of the
lines has allowed them to detain scores of people simply for the peaceful
act of raising a flag," said Donna Guest, Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific
"The Indonesian government has a right and
duty to maintain public order in its territory. But it cannot imprison
people in Maluku or Papua - in some cases for up to 20 years - just for
the simple act of raising a flag," said Guest.
At least 72 people have been arrested and
detained for their peaceful political activities in the last two years
in Maluku province, including for simply unfurling the banned Benang Raja
flag, symbol of South Maluku independence. Further, in Papua, Amnesty International
has documented the arrest of at least 90 people during 2008 for raising
the Morning Star flag.
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On June 29, 2007, 23 people performed a traditional
‘Cakalele' dance at an event organized to celebrate National Family Day
in Ambon, Maluku province. At the end of their performance, the dancers
unfurled the Benang Raja flag. Police arrested 22 of the dancers, subjecting
them to severe beatings and torture during their interrogation and detention.
"The Indonesian government should conduct
an independent and impartial investigation into the reports of torture
and other ill-treatment," said Guest. "Those found responsible should
be held to account as a matter of priority and victims should be granted
The 22 dancers are now serving long prison
sentences of between seven and 20 years, while one other is awaiting trial.
On March 10, 2009, 18 of the detained were transferred to Java, over a
thousand kilometers away from their families.
"The Cakalele dancers are prisoners of conscience
who should be immediately and unconditionally released," said Guest.
Amnesty International called on the Indonesian
government to release all those imprisoned for peacefully exercising their
right to free expression, and to establish a working group to review its
policies and practices - including its legislation - to ensure they do
not infringe on the rights of all Indonesians to peacefully express their
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