West Papua: Independence marches defy fresh attacks

October 27, 2012

Indonesian security forces attacked West Papuan independence rallies in several cities on October 23.

West Papua Media (WPM) said the worst violence took place in Manokwari where four people were shot by army soldiers and many others were beaten.

There were fears a massacre would take place during a confrontation between protesters and security forces, after authorities blocked people's attempts to protest. Eleven student activists were arrested, including some who had been injured, Jubi said on October 24.

People also rallied in Jayapura at the site where West Papua National Committee (KNBP) leader Mako Tabuni was assassinated by security forces in June. Police used tear gas and a water cannon to disperse the rally and arrested five people, KNBPnews said on October 23.

Other protests were disrupted in Fak Fak, Biak and Sorong, KNBPnews said.

Rallies took place in relative peace in Timika, Merauke and Yahukimo. Solidarity rallies took place in Manado and Makassar.

The rallies were organised by the KNBP, which has been under siege for months as part of Indonesian government attempts to destroy the West Papuan independence movement.

The crackdown follows the blocking of events across the region commemorating the anniversary of the attack on the Papuan People's Congress on October 19. WPM reported several cases of arrests and torture of activists in different cities, an extension of the crackdown that has continually intensified since May.

Indonesian authorities have sought to blame activists, particularly the KNBP, for shootings and terrorist activity, based on highly dubious evidence that many believe was fabricated.

WPM said on October 21 that activists in Serui had been rounded up by police. It said that one, Lodik Ayomi, was beaten until he was “like a disabled person” then disappeared by police.

The Asian Human Rights Commission said five Jayapura-based activists were arrested and falsely accused of importing explosive materials on October 12. There have also been raids of political offices and university campuses in search of activists.

New Matilda said on October 22 that many activists had gone into hiding. These include KNBP chairperson Victor Yeimo; the director of the Papua Desk of Friends of the Earth Indonesia Fanny Kogoya; and the head of the KNBP in Wamena Simeon Dabbi.

A report by WPM on October 20 exposed how security forces, including the Australian-funded Detachment 88, had infiltrated the community by posing as taxi drivers, food vendors and mechanics. It also detailed how a friend of Kogoya was tortured, allegedly by Detachment 88, who tried to make him become an informant.

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