Indonesia vows fair trial for Papuan sought by Interpol

25th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

Indonesia on Friday promised a fair trial for a Papuan separatist leader after Interpol added him to a wanted list seeking his extradition from Britain where he has lived in exile after escaping from jail.

Benny Wenda, 37, is wanted by Indonesia on arson and murder charges, which he denies.

"Benny Wenda is a wanted person by our police. That's why police requested help in delivering him back to Indonesia for crimes he's allegedly committed," foreign ministry spokesman Michael Tene told AFP.

"He's been involved in certain acts of violence and attacks. He will go through a fair trial process, and if he's innocent, he'll be let free."

The government denies the move is part of a recent crackdown on separatism in the eastern province of Papua, saying it is merely a matter of "law and order".

Wenda escaped from a Papuan jail in 2002 while on trial for arson and murder after allegedly inciting a deadly attack on a police station in 2000.

He eventually making it to Britain, where he was granted asylum.

For decades, ethnic Papuans have rejected their status as a region within Indonesia, and poorly-armed separatist groups have fought a low-level insurgency.

A self-determination referendum in 1969 that officially handed Jakarta power over Papua was widely seen as rigged.

Interpol's "red notice" against the activist follows a crackdown in Papua, where at least three people died last month after police opened fire on a pro-independence rally.

The Indonesian military and police have a strong presence in Papua, and soldiers have been convicted of human rights abuses there.

Police on Thursday killed a suspected separatist and arrested 12 others, who have since been released.

Separatist activities are considered treason in Indonesia and carry harsh punishments.

Several Indonesians are serving life sentences for raising separatist flags and performing traditional dances at pro-independence protests.

"I believe Benny Wenda is part of a separatist movement, and of course that's unlawful here, like it is in many other countries," Tene said.

Wenda lives in Oxford with his wife and six children, where he campaigns for independence for Papua.

© 2011 AFP

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