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West Papuan liberation leader faces 17 years jail on charges of treason

INDONESIA has been accused of state-sponsored persecution of West Papuans after prosecutors demanded a 17-year jail sentence for Buchtar Tabuni, a leader of the independence movement, on trumped-up charges of treason.

United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) chairman Benny Wenda warned today that the charges were aimed at silencing critics of the occupying Indonesian state.

Mr Tabuni faces the lengthy prison term because of his role as a respected leader of the West Papuan liberation movement, according to Mr Wenda, who explained that he has himself experienced Indonesia’s “kangaroo courts.”

“There are no fair trials for the black Melanesians of West Papua under Indonesian colonial rule. We need all international solidarity groups to assist as they did with my case.

“Please pressure your governments to intervene and secure Buchtar’s release,” he said in a public appeal.

Mr Tabuni was detained at his home during last year’s West Papuan uprising, which was triggered by racist abuse directed at students by Indonesian military officials and allied militia groups.

Thousands of West Papuans took to the streets in non-violent protest, demanding justice and an end to decades of discrimination.

But they were met with a violent response by the Indonesian state, with scores shot dead and hundreds arrested in scenes which Mr Wenda said echoed what is happening on the streets of the United States right now.

“This is the reality of how black Melanesian lives are treated by Indonesia,” he said, demanding the release of Mr Tabuni and all political prisoners.

West Papua comprises the two westernmost peninsulas of the huge island of New Guinea that were annexed by Indonesia in 1969.

The annexation followed a fake referendum whereby a handpicked group of 1,022 Papuans were coerced into ratifying the Indonesian occupation through the so-called Act of Free Choice. At least 500,000 people are believed to have been killed since.

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