Indonesia jails 11 Papuans over flag

AFP - A court in Indonesia's remote Papua region has jailed 11 activists for subversion after they raised the region's banned independence flag.

Prominent activist Jack Wanggai was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison and 10 others were given three years over peaceful protests in March 2007, said lawyer Yan Christian Warinussy.

The sentences were increased by the High Court in the Papua provincial capital Jayapura on Thursday after prosecutors in Manokwari city, where the protests took place, appealed against the decision of a lower court to jail the activists for eight months each, Warinussy said.

"The activists were carrying out peaceful demonstrations ... and they brought the Morning Star flag," he said. "The court said that if it didn't deal with this case harshly then it will set a bad precedent for all of Papua." He said the defendants planned to appeal to Indonesia's Supreme Court.

Separatist sentiment runs deep in Papua, which lies on the western end of New Guinea island and was incorporated into Indonesia after a 1969 UN-sponsored vote of select tribal elders widely dismissed as a sham. Displaying banned separatist symbols such as flags in Indonesia can lead to sentences up to life in prison.

© 2009 AFP