Amnesty International Demands the Release of Imprisoned Indonesian Activist

Amnesty International Demands the Release of Imprisoned Indonesian Activist 

infoZine, 18 February 2011
By: Hamdhoon Rashad


Cries of “Shame on Indonesia” rang outside the Indonesian Embassy in Thursday as Amnesty International held a rally to demand the immediate and unconditional release of imprisoned Indonesian activist Filep Karma.

Washington, D.C. - The Amnesty group called on the Indonesian government to release the man they call a prisoner of conscience. Karma, 51, who was jailed for his role in a peaceful flag-raising protest in the Papua Province of Indonesia in December 2004.

“We hold this rally every month to remind the Indonesian government that we are not going to give up on Filep,” Claudia Vandermade, special focus case coordinator at Amnesty International USA, said.

Some 200 people participated in a non-violent ceremony outside Abepura in Papua Province on Dec.1, 2004, when the Morning Star flag, a symbol of Papuan independence, was raised in commemoration of the declaration of Papuan independence in 1962.

Protesters carry banners reading, “Indonesia Shame On You” and “Honk for Human Rights in Indonesia” as they demand the immediate and unconditional release of activist Filep Karam, who was arrested in December 2004. SHFWire photo by Hamdhoon RashadPapua is the easternmost province of Indonesia, sharing an island with the country Papua New Guinea. It was granted limited autonomy in 2001.

Indonesian police intervened and forced an end to the ceremony. They arrested Karma and charged him with treason for betraying Indonesia by flying the outlawed Papua flag.

Amnesty International held a rally near the White House in October to call on the U.S. government to use its influence with the Indonesian government to demand the release of Karma and the other prisoners.

“The Obama administration has recently extended military funding to Indonesia. Where’s the message in that?” Vandermade said. “This is a clear sign that the U.S. government is not putting human rights ahead of national security.”

Karma is serving a 15-year sentence and was first imprisoned in the Abepura prison in the Papua capital of Jayapura.

Karma and several other prisoners were transferred to Papua police headquarters in Jayapura last year. A prison riot broke out, and authorities accused Karma and another activist, Buchtar Tabuni, of provoking the riot.

“Since we held our last rally, we have been more worried about Filep than ever. Things have worsened for Filep,” Vandermade said.

Last year, the Indonesian government released Yusak Pakage, 31, one of the prisoners of conscience jailed along with Karma on what the Amnesty International tagged as a “conditional release” after he admitted to some wrongdoing.

“Filep is a leader, a hero among the prisoners arrested during the 2004 flag-raising,” Vandermade said. She said Karma would not admit to wrongdoing just to get released.

“We wouldn’t be here if we have no hope. We believe in human rights, people’s rights to freedom of speech, freedom of expression,” Vandermade said. “I am sure sooner or later someone in Indonesia is going to see and hopefully acknowledge what we are doing and why we are doing it.”

An official at the Indonesian Embassy said the case has already been brought to justice, and the rallies are Amnesty International’s way of expressing it members freedom of speech.