Verdicts Upheld for Morning Star Raisers

Jakarta Globe, Putri Prameshwari - The Jayapura High Court has upheld the guilty verdict against 11 Papuan activists convicted of violating a government regulation banning the display of "separatist flags," their lawyer said on Friday.

Jan Christian Warinussy, the lawyer for the activists, said that the original sentences handed down by a lower court in September were even extended after the verdict was confirmed.

The Manokwari District Court in West Papua Province sentenced the activists to eight months in jail for unfurling the so-called Morning Star Flag, a regional symbol for West Papua, during a series of rallies in March 2008 protesting the government regulation that prohibits the display of separatist flags.

The original sentences were extended to as much as three and a half years in jail after the Jayapura High Court denied their appeal.

The protesters claimed that the regulation contradicted special autonomy measures established in 2001 that allowed for the adoption of a regional symbol.

Warinussy said that one of the activists, Jack Wanggai, who is also a spokesman for the West Papua National Authority, was sentenced to three and half years in jail. The remaining 10 activists were given three year terms.

Claiming that the verdict was inappropriate, Warinussy said he would file an appeal with the Supreme Court some time next week.

"[The appeals court judges] overreacted by saying that three years in jail should be a deterrent for others not to mess with the law," he said.

Meanwhile, about 20 suspected rebels from the Free Papua Movement, or OPM, attacked a police post in Puncak Jaya district on Thursday night, according to Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

Papua Police Chief Bagus Eko Danto was quoted as saying that the police were still hunting for the suspects, who stabbed the wife of a police officer in the chest.

"The woman was stabbed three times with a sickle," he was quoted by Antara news agency as saying. "

She is still in critical condition."

The attackers ran off with four guns and 60 bullets, DPA said.

Papuan separatist movements have been on the rise since the 1960s.

In the past, Indonesian government forces have been involved in a number of bloody clashes with Papuan independence groups.