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Friday, 8 December, 2000, 13:03 GMT
Wahid calls for activists' release

Jakarta has cracked down on separatists
Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid has demanded that police release five Irian Jaya separatists arrested for subversion.

Police detained the activists as part of a major security operation in the province ahead of a large pro-independence rally last weekend.

Theys Eluay, pro-independence leader
Mr Wahid has called for Theys Eluay's release
Since then 14 people have died in clashes between security forces and separatists.

Mr Wahid said on Friday that police should release the prisoners, including the separatist movement's leader, Theys Eluay.

"I think it would be better for us to negotiate this matter rather than have more bloodshed there," Mr Wahid said.

"I have asked officials to release Theys and his friends."

Machetes

Mr Wahid was speaking a day after the latest outbreak of violence when a mob, armed with machetes and axes, attacked a police station in a pre-dawn raid before going on the rampage through a market.

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Two police and four civilians were killed in the violence on the outskirts of the provincial capital Jayapura.

An unconfirmed report said one of the dead was a 19-year-old student who was arrested after the clashes and beaten to death in custody.

"He was bashed and died in the police cell," his friend told the news agency AFP.

Arrests

Around 100 students were arrested in raids on dormitories after the attack on the police station.

A suspect is arrested after the attack
A suspect is arrested after the attack
Police have denied allegations by human rights activists that several of those detained were tortured.

Separatists in Irian Jaya, on the western half of New Guinea Island, have been struggling for independence ever since Indonesia took control of the former Dutch colony in 1963.

Aceh

When elected a year ago, Mr Wahid promised to introduce democratic reform.

But he has recently come under fire for security clampdowns in both Irian Jaya in the east and Aceh in the west.

Last month security forces in Aceh detained activists for organising a rally calling for a referendum on independence.

"The detainees are the first prisoners of conscience of Wahid's administration," said human rights activist Asmara Nababan.

"The government has stopped using dialogue and started using repression."

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See also:

04 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
Papua tightens jungle border
01 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
Flag comes down in Irian Jaya
30 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Ferment in Irian Jaya
29 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Irian Jaya separatists held
04 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Irian Jaya declared independent
21 Jan 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Papuan dreams of independence
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