31 Oct 2002

Papuan separatist leader breaks out of jail

5:50 pm on 31 October 2002

Hundreds of Indonesian police have been sent to the border with Papua New Guinea to prevent Papua provinces' most wanted man, Benny Wenda, fleeing to the neighbouring country.

The Jakarta Post reports that the pro-independence Wenda escaped the Abepura police station with another inmate through the prison's bathroom.

It says that Wenda broke the bathroom's ceiling and its ventilation to get out of the prison.

Wenda was on trial on charges of masterminding an attack on the Abepura police station and torching of shops in December 2000 in which a policeman and a security guard were killed.

The Deputy Chief of the Papua Provincial Police says that the police would continue to hunt for Wenda so that they could resume the trial.

The Police Chief says its believed that the escapees are still hiding around Abepura and that police will be sent to Indonesia's shared border with PNG to stop them crossing the border.

Benny Wenda is the younger brother of Mathias Wenda, a field commander of the Free Papua Movement or OPM allegedly operating along the Indonesian/PNG border.