Indonesian President calls for release of priest and other Papuan leaders
Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid on Friday called for police to release a group of community leaders of the eastern province of Papua, including a Catholic priest, who were arrested on charges of separatist activities which carry a death sentence.
"The president will call Coordinating Minister for Political, Social, and Security Affairs [Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono] and Papua Police Chief [Brig. Gen. Sylvanus Wenas] to immediately release leaders of the Papuan Presidium Council," Papuan religious leader Karel Phil Erare told reporters. "They should be released, so everything can be solved, because with their detention, the problem will not end," Erare quoted Wahid as saying.
Papuan police have detained five independence leaders-- the governing council's chairman, Theys Eluay, the secretary general, Thaha al-Hamid, independence leader Don Flassy, Father Rev. Herman Awom, and former political prisoner John Mambor -- and four other local leaders.
Fr Awom and four others were detained a week ago in the provincial capital Jayapura following a pledge by the government to crack down on separatist activity that has recently flared in the province.