NZ group demands freedom for political prisoners

June 17, 1998

NZ group demands freedom for political prisoners

WELLINGTON — Thousands of "messages in a bottle" were delivered to the Indonesian embassy here on June 5. The bottles, containing thumb prints and signed postcards, were part of a protest staged by the Body Shop and Amnesty International campaigners seeking the freeing of Indonesian political prisoner Dita Indah Sari, who is serving time in Tangerang Prison near Jakarta.

The protesters also presented embassy staff with a list of 227 Indonesian and East Timorese prisoners whom Amnesty and Human Rights Watch believe should be freed or have their convictions reviewed because of unfair trials.

Amnesty spokesperson Ced Simpson said the support of New Zealanders, including corporate support from the Body Shop, for this campaign showed their commitment to human rights.

Body Shop franchisee Ashleigh Ogilvie-Lee said the company and Amnesty joined forces as part of an international campaign for human rights defenders. The campaign is focusing on Dita Sari, the only female imprisoned in Indonesia, because she is representative of campaigners and was wrongly imprisoned for speaking out.

"We knew we didn't have a chance with Suharto ... Now that President Habibie is in, it will be a true test of the character of the man and whether he is a reformist or not", Ogilvie-Lee said.

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