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Page last updated at 10:58 GMT, Friday, 4 April 2008 11:58 UK

Indonesia activist gets life term

Moluccas map

The leader of a peaceful protest held by an outlawed separatist group in Indonesia has been jailed for life for treason, a court official says.

Johan Teterisa was among 20 members of the South Moluccan Republic group (RMS) jailed for their part in the protest.

They danced and unfurled a flag of their self-proclaimed republic in front of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in provincial capital Ambon in 2007.

The mainly Christian RMS was set up by loyalists to Dutch rule in the 1950s.

It is not thought to have widespread support in the Moluccas - but analysts say the severity of the sentences shows how Indonesia is keen to stamp out separatist movements.

THE MOLUCCAS: KEY FACTS
Island chain which used to be called the Spice Islands
54% of inhabitants are Muslim and 44% are Christian
Between 1999 and 2002, thousands were killed in Muslim-Christian clashes
Peace deal signed in 2002, but sporadic violence continues

During the incident last July, activists performed a traditional war dance and unfurled their flag in front of the president, who was overseeing an official ceremony.

It was a major embarrassment to the Jakarta government and prompted the replacement of military and police chiefs.

Court official Amin Syarfudin told reporters that at least 20 members of the RMS group had been sentenced over the protest in the past two months.

Johan Teterisa was given a life sentence because it was his idea to dance in front of the president, the official said.

Many supporters of the RMS fled to the Netherlands in the 1950s when they were defeated by Indonesian troops.

The group has been relatively low-profile since the 1970s, when it was blamed for several terrorist attacks in the Netherlands,

The Moluccas, some 2,300km (1,400 miles) east of Jakarta, was plagued by conflict between Muslims and Christians from 1999 to 2002.


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