JAKARTA, Indonesia: Indonesian police on Tuesday detained more than 300 demonstrators who were demanding the release of political prisoners in restive Papua province, a rights group said.
Veronica Koman of the Jakarta-based Indonesian Legal Aid Institute said about 40 separatists are currently jailed in the province. A low-level insurgency for an independent Papua has continued since the region was transferred from Dutch to Indonesian rule in the 1960s.
Koman said peaceful protests occurred in the towns of Sentani and Wamena, and in Manado, the provincial capital of North Sulawesi. A total of 336 demonstrators were detained, she said.
Local police spokesman Lt. Col. Patridge Renwarin confirmed that rallies took place in Sentani and Wamena. He said a total of 207 demonstrators were interrogated before being released in the two towns.
“We just questioned them because many joined the rallies without being aware of their intention,” Renwarin said.
He added that more than 1,000 people also demonstrated in Jayapura, the provincial capital of Papua, but said they dispersed peacefully.
It was the second mass detention of Papuans in May. Nearly 2,000 people were detained earlier in the month for taking part in pro-independence demonstrations on the anniversary of Papua’s incorporation into Indonesia in 1963.