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Indonesia group protests US Congress letter seeking prisoner release

[JURIST] Members of the Muslim group Hizbut Tahir Indonesia (HTI) [group website, in Bahasa] held a demonstration outside the US Consulate General and the US embassy in Jakarta Sunday to protest a letter [text, PDF] sent by members of US Congress asking for the release of two Papuan prisoners. In 2005, an Indonesian court sentenced Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage [Amnesty International backgrounder], both members of the opposition group Free Papua Organization (OPM) [group website], to 10 and 15 years in prison respectively after finding them guilty of treason for raising a Papuan flag. In the letter, the members of Congress wrote:

We urge you to take action to ensure the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Karma and Mr. Pakage. Any security officials who mistreated Mr. Karma or who may have employed inappropriate force against peaceful demonstrators should be prosecuted. Such steps would be an important indicator that Indonesia, as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, takes its international obligations to fully respect universally recognized human rights.
The protesters stressed that US officials should not interfere with the affairs of other sovereign nations and called on Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono [BBC profile] to reject the US request. Indonesian officials have said [ANTARA report] that their official response will include the protesters' request for US noninterference. ANTARA News has more. AFP has additional coverage.

In February 2007, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report [text; JURIST report] indicating that Indonesia had convicted and jailed at least 18 people for advocating a sovereign government for the province of Papua. Article 28 of Indonesia's 1945 Constitution [text] guarantees freedom of expression, but HRW wrote that subsequent legislation has denied Indonesians this right. In July 2007, the Indonesian Constitutional Court [official website] voided Articles 154 and 155 of the Indonesian criminal code prohibiting acts of inciting hatred against the government or the distribution of materials voicing opposition against the government, ruling [JURIST report] that Dutch colonial-era articles violated the freedom of expression guaranteed in the country's constitution.

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