Jun 24, 2010

South Moluccas: Indonesia Urged to Release 100 Pro-Independence Prisoners

Active ImageThe Indonesian government is being called on to immediately release more than 100 prisoners, who have been jailed for taking part in non-violent political protests. The group, Human Rights Watch, says most of the Papuan and Moluccan pro-independence activists locked up inside Indonesian prisons have been tortured and denied medical treatment.
Below is a published Radio Broadcast by ABC Radio Australia:

Presenter: Indonesia correspondent Kerrie Ritchie
Speakers: Filep Karma, jailed Papuan; Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division

RITCHIE: Human Rights Watch believes there're 48 Papuans and 70 Moluccans currently behind bars in Indonesia, who are non-violent pro-independence activists. The Human Rights group has just released a report profiling the cases of ten of the men.

In 2007 Filep Karma was sentenced to 15 years jail for treason - after organising a flag raising ceremony in Papua.

Speaking from his prison cell in Abepura prison in Jayapura, the 51 year old said he'd been attacked by prison officers .

He says the beatings usually begin as soon as inmates arrive at the jail because the guards want to show who's in charge.

In the past few years Filep Karma's health has deteriorated. He has serious prostate problems.

Phil Robertson, the Deputy Director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch says prison officials have been refusing to allow the father of two to have an operation in hospital.

ROBERTSON: He needs to be sent to a special hospital in Jakarta and there's been a run around. Who is going to pay? Does he really need it? When it's a fact, this man needs an operation."

RITCHIE: Another prisoner Johan Teterisa has had his life sentenced reduced to 15 years.

The school teacher's crime was to lead a group of dancers who held up the flag for the Independent Republic of South Moluccas .. in front of the Indonesian President.

Phil Robertson says Mr Teterisa needs medical help ..

ROBERTSON: He was savagely beaten for 11 days after his arrest and he's still suffering the effects he has problems can't sleep on his side, and he's received not medical treatment for that.

RITCHIE: Another man featured in the report Ferdinand Pakage says he lost sight in his right eye after her was beaten by three prison guards ..

The Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said the prisoners have many avenues of complaint - they can contact police or their lawyers.

Teuku Faizasyah says he isn't comfortable with the term "political prisoner" because these men engaged in unruly behaviour, with disregard for law and order. He believes the punishments handed out are not harsh.

Phil Robertson says if Indonesia wants to prove to the world it's a democracy, it must stop criminalizing non violent political speech ..

ROBERTSON: We recongise that indon has improved it's human rights record, there is a lot more free media, but the political prisoners, this is a dark forgotten corner. Indonesia says it wants to be a champion of human rights but they need to take up this issue, they can't be left aside.

RITCHIE: Human Rights Watch says prison bosses recently indicated they MIGHT let Filep Karma go to hospital. Mr Karma told the ABC it's unfair he's in prison for raising the Morning Star Flag.

He says in Jakarta people often put a photograph of the Indonesian President on a "buffalo's backside" during demonstrations and nothing happens to them.

Filep Karma has ten more years of his sentence to serve.