May 06, 2004

South Moluccas: Indonesia arrests Moluccan Leader Family

Indonesian police have arrested the wife and daughters of a Christian separatist leader in the eastern city of Ambon, officials said Sunday
JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian police have arrested the wife and daughters of a Christian separatist leader in the eastern city of Ambon, following days of religious fighting there, officials said Sunday.
Ambon's mayor, Jopie Papilaya, said police arrested the wife of Alex Manuputty -- currently living overseas -- as well as his two daughters, late Saturday.

"Police seized some important documents. ... I can't tell you what they are ... but they are related to the (recent) conflict," Papilaya told Reuters by telephone from Ambon, capital of the eastern Moluccas islands.

Endro Prasetyo, police spokesman for the Moluccas islands, confirmed the arrest but declined to give further details.

Days of religious fighting between Muslims and Christians in Ambon, about 2,300 km (1,440 miles) east of Jakarta, have claimed at least 36 lives and injured 156 people.

The fighting was the worst in two years after Christians and Muslims signed a peace pact to end three years of bloodshed that killed around 5,000 people.

The latest unrest erupted after people tried to raise the banned flag of a mostly Christian rebel group, the South Moluccas Republic Movement (RMS), headed by Manuputty.

An Indonesian court sentenced Manuputty to three years in jail in 2003 for subversion, but he never served the jail term and has slipped out of the country.

Manuputty's whereabouts remained unclear but some local media suggest he is living in the United States.

RMS was born in the 1950s with a call for Moluccan independence. Experts on the Moluccas have estimated Manuputty's faction at around 100 supporters spread throughout the island chain.

Residents in Ambon said situation in the port city, some of it in ruins after years of violence, was calm Sunday with thousands of Christians flocking to churches throughout the city to attend mass.

"It's not completely normal yet. ... There is still some tension but at least people can go about doing their activities," Papilaya said.

Indonesia's main separatist hotspots are Aceh province in the country's northwest and Papua in the remote east.

Some 85 percent of Indonesia's 210 million people are Muslim. In some eastern parts of Indonesia, however, the Christian and Muslim populations are about equal in size.

Source: Reuters