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Papua dissidents held by Jakarta: rights groups
Indonesia correspondent Helen Brown reports on claims Jakarta is holding up to 100 political dissidents in jail.

The Indonesian Government has rejected claims by human rights groups that it is holding up to 100 political dissidents in jail.

Human Rights Watch has called on the international community to put pressure on Jakarta to release any political prisoners, including a number of high profile Papuan independence activists.

Indonesia correspondent Helen Brown reports from Jakarta.
HELEN BROWN, REPORTER: This is West Papuan activist Filep Karma, in late 2004 he was arrested and sentenced to 15 years jail for raising the Papuan independence flag, the Morning Star.

AUDRYNE KARMA, DAUGHTER OF FILEP KARMA: My father is very weak. He still get bleeding and his body is very thin right now. I think his condition is very poor and he need to get better treatment right now.

HELEN BROWN: Filep Karma's daughter, Audryne is a vocal advocate of her father's case, and she says he's sick and should be released.

AUDRYNE KARMA: My father do what he want to do and he always support what I am to do.

So as a child, I just want my father getting better in there. And I really respect and support what he do as a daughter.

HELEN BROWN: According to human rights activists, Indonesia has around 100 political dissidents locked up in jail. People they claim has simply made peaceful protests about independence but have been caught by laws that criminalise their behaviour.

This week marked another opportunity for the activist to raise their concerns on the international stage; this time with the European Union.

ANDREAS HARSONO, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH INDONESIA: I would like the European Union to raise the issue of these political prisoners; that they should be released; that the Indonesian government should recognise the UN ruling that the Indonesian government should recognise there are political prisoners in Papua and the Moluccas Islands.

HELEN BROWN: The face of Human Rights Watch in Indonesia, Andreas Harsono, has spent the last few weeks traversing between the European embassies dotted around the Jakarta.

He's been lobbying representatives ahead of an annual dialogue between EU and Indonesia on human rights issues, and says that behind closed doors the response is positive.

ANDREAS HARSONO: Of course they have to put this thing on the table diplomatically. And let's see what will be the result.

HELEN BROWN: The result, as part of a statement issued, was that both sides noted the need to give inmates proper health facilities and treatment. But there was no mention of political prisoners.

Indonesia is sensitive to claims that it's abusing human rights in places like Papua. And Indonesian government rejects the claims made by human rights groups.

It says it has no political prisoners, although the justice minister says the country has sentenced 17 people to jail time for violating the laws aimed at fighting separatism.

AMIR SYAMSUDDIN, LAW AND HUMAN RIGHTS MINISTER (Translation): See how the demonstrators show their feelings? They are even allowed to yell about the president in front of the presidential palace and we have no problem.

But if they start taking illegal steps, separating from Indonesia, proclaiming a country within a country, Indonesia as a sovereign country has all the rights to stop such acts.

HELEN BROWN: In the government's eyes, promoting a separate state is a crime of provocation, called makar. And one of Indonesia's flash points is West Papua.

Last year the United Nations declared that Indonesia was violating international law by detaining the likes of Filep Karma for raising a separatist flag.

AMIR SYAMSUDDIN (Translation): We have to understand that Indonesia, with all the measures it takes, is trying to stabilise and secure its land.

Indonesia doesn't occupy a foreign country. We don't send any military personnel to occupy another country. These are legal steps which are taken by a country to keep its integrity.

HELEN BROWN: Last October, six people died and hundreds were arrested when a gathering of the Papuan People's Congress declared independence from Indonesia.

Five Papuan leaders were sentenced to three years in prison. It was a lighter sentence than those previously handed out, and for some a sign of possible progress.

ANDREAS HARSONO: It is a positive sign, although it is not enough. It is far from enough because these people are not guilty at all. They don't do any crime, they peacefully raise their political aspiration. They don't need to go to jail.

HELEN BROWN: That's a message echoed by the family of Filep Karma. They're trying to raise $10,000 so he can moved to Jakarta for better medical care.

The government says the West Papuan activist is under observation and any medical treatment in Jakarta would be provided and paid for, if need be.

But that's not the message the family is getting. And there's no suggestion he will be released from jail any time soon.
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