4 May 2016

Most West Papua detainees released

2:27 pm on 4 May 2016

Most of the hundreds of West Papuans arrested by Indonesian police for participating in widespread demonstrations two days ago have been released.

Indonesian security forces hold demonstrators

Indonesian security forces hold demonstrators Photo: Tabloid Jubi

Local media reports say as many as 1,700 people were arrested in demos across all of the main Papuan cities, as well as Semarang and Makassar.

They were demonstrating support for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua's bid to be a full member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, as well as the International Parliamentarians for West Papua summit held in London this week.

Journalist Victor Mambor from Papua's Tabloid Jubi newspaper says about eight people are still detained in Merauke, Fakfak and Wamena.

He says while there was a more restrained conduct of police forces in handling the demonstrations compared with similar events in the past, the number of arrests was massive.

Indonesian police at a demonstration in the Papuan region

Indonesian police at a demonstration in the Papuan region Photo: Supplied / Whens Tebay

Mr Mambor says this caused logistical problems in Jayapura where police arrested far more people than they could fit in the police stations, so they opted to hold them at the Mobile Brigade headquarters.

"I think because they have a big space there. But you know, they put them in the field, in the sun in the middle of the midday. It's very hot. They told them to take all of their tee-shirts (off)."

Monday's demonstrations across Papua followed similar demonstrations across Papua three weeks ago.

One of the main representative groups in the Liberation Movement, the West Papua National Committee, or KNPB, has been central to the organisation of the demonstrations.

Police say that the KNPB requested permission to hold this week's demonstrations and failed to meet the requirements, but they proceeded anyway.

Monday's mass mobilisations are unlikely to be the last as deliberations on the West Papua membership bid at a Melanesian Spearhead Group leaders summit, expected to be held within two months, draw near.

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