Free All Political Prisoners: Indonesia 

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May 10, Jakarta: Indonesian President Joko Widodo was expected to announce the release of five political prisoners in the restive eastern province of Papua Saturday, seeking to repair a rights record left in tatters by the recent execution of foreigners AFP reported.

Human Rights Watch said although five Papuan prisoners ignore the dozens of political prisoners who remain behind bars in Papua and the Moluccas islands.

Widodo announced clemency while visiting Papua’s provincial capital of Jayapura on May 9, 2015. The five men, convicted by a Wamena court in 2003 for their alleged role in a raid on an Indonesian Armed Forces weapons arsenal in Wamena on 4 April 2003 that resulted in the deaths of two soldiers, were serving prison terms ranging from 19 years and 10 months to life imprisonment. They were released during Widodo’s visit to Abepura prison, in Jayapura. Only two were sentenced to life, who was involved in the raid. The other three were arrested because of their pro-independence views.

Separatists in Papua have for decades fought a low-level insurgency against the central government, and dozens are in jail for committing treason for acts such as raising the separatist “Morning Star” flag and taking part in anti-government protests.

The release would mark a change in approach from previous governments. During the 10-year rule of previous president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, only one political prisoner in Papua was granted clemency, according to Human Rights Watch.

However activists said releasing a handful of prisoners was not enough, and accused Widodo of seeking to burnish his image.

The president has faced a storm of international outrage since putting to death seven foreigners last week, with Australia withdrawing its ambassador over the execution of two of its citizens and the United Nations expressing deep regret.

Andreas Harsono, Indonesia researcher for Human Rights Watch, said the move was “more like image-making”.

“It’s a good step but it’s nothing new,” he said, calling on Widodo to go further by granting prisoners an amnesty.

Prisoners have to request clemency and admit guilt before it is granted, unlike with an amnesty. Some prisoners in Papua have repeatedly refused to seek clemency when invited to do so by the government.

There are still regular flare-ups of violence in Papua, where poorly-armed insurgents are fighting on behalf of the mostly ethnic Melanesian population.

Indonesian troops are regularly accused of abusing Papuan villagers in the name of anti-rebel operations, but Jakarta denies allegations of systematic human rights abuses over the past decade, including the killing of five unarmed peaceful protesters in the remote town of Enarotali on December 8, 2014. Three separate official probes into the shootings, conducted by the police, the national human rights commission, and an informal military-and-police effort, have yet to release the result of their investigations.                     The Oslo Times

 

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