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article imageAustralian among hundreds of Papuan activists arrested in Indonesia

By AFP     Dec 3, 2018 in World

An Australian was among hundreds of pro-Papuan independence activists arrested across Indonesia at the weekend, police and rights groups said Monday.

Some 233 activists, including Australian Ronda Amy Harman, were detained late Saturday in Indonesia's second-largest city Surabaya, East Java police spokesman Frans Barung Mangera told AFP.

The arrests were made at a student dormitory, said lawyer Veronica Koman, who represented some of the detainees.

They were among more than 500 activists swept up in a nationwide police crackdown that coincided with rallies on December 1, a date many Papuans consider should be the anniversary of their independence from the Dutch.

Papua declared itself an independent nation on that date in 1961, but neighbouring Indonesia took control of the region by force in 1963. It officially annexed Papua in 1969 with a UN-backed vote, widely seen as a sham.

No one was formally charged in the Surabaya arrests including Harman, but the 35-year-old woman was reported to immigration officials, Mangera said.

The mass arrests followed a rally in which counter protestors threw stones at around 300 Papuans, injuring 16 people, Amnesty International said.

Jakarta keeps a tight grip on resource-rich Papua, which has been the scene of a low-level independence insurgency since the late Sixties.

Some of the violence has been centred on protests against a huge gold and copper mine operated by US-based firm Freeport McMoRan -- a frequent flashpoint in the local struggle for independence and a bigger share of the region's rich resources.

A spokesperson for Australia’s department of foreign affairs and trade said it was aware of reports that Harman had been detained in Indonesia and said it was ready to offer consular assistance.

Lawyer Koman -- who was with the activists in Surabaya -- said the Australian was at the dormitory with her boyfriend, one of the Papuan students.

She is now being kept at a hotel and it was likely she would be deported, Koman added.

Rights groups have blasted authorities for the mass detentions, saying it was an assault on Papuans’ right to freedom of expression and assembly.

"These people did nothing but peacefully attend public events," Amnesty International Indonesia's executive director Usman Hamid said in a statement.

"These arbitrary arrests add to the long list of acts of harassment, intimidation and arrests faced by Papuans."

In August, authorities arrested Pole Jakub Skrzypski in Papua for alleged links to separatists and he could face life in prison if convicted. His trial date has not yet been set.

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