New York: Rights group Amnesty International on Thursday urged Indonesia to free a Papuan activist jailed for staging a peaceful protest and raising an independence flag in the remote province.
Melkianus Bleskadit was sentenced to two years for "rebellion" after his demonstration last year in Manokwari, West Papua province, during which he and other activists raised the 14 Star Flag, a symbol of West Melanesian independence.
"His sentence highlights the continuing use of repressive legislation to criminalise peaceful political activities in the province," Amnesty said in a statement.
The group said it was aware of at least 90 political activists in the restive provinces of Maluku and Papua who had been jailed for peaceful political activity.
"Amnesty International considers them to be prisoners of conscience and calls for their immediate and unconditional release," it said.
Amnesty said Indonesia was a state party to The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights while the Indonesian constitution guarantees the rights to freedom of expression, opinion, association and peaceful assembly. "While the Indonesian government has the duty and the right to maintain public order, it must ensure that any restrictions to freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly are no more than is permitted under international human rights law," Amnesty said.
Indonesia is accused of gross human rights abuses in Papua, a Melanesian-majority region rich in natural resources where poorly armed rebels have been fighting for independence for decades.
Jakarta denies the allegations but refuses to allow foreign media or aid workers into the province to conduct independent inquiries.