Papuan independence leader Filep Karma to be released from prison next week
August 14, 2015 – 9:55PM
- 28 reading now
- Read later
National Affairs Editor
Filep Karma gives away his daughter last year while on day release. Photo: Michael Bachelard
Jakarta: Papuan independence leader Filep Karma is due to be released next week from prison, even as he resists freedom until guaranteed he can agitate for self-rule without any threat to his safety or monitoring by intelligence agencies.
Imprisoned in 2004 for 15 years for flying the banned symbol of Papuan sovereignty, the Morning Star flag, Mr Karma has been told he will be freed from Abepura prison on Indonesia’s Independence Day, August 17, due to the usual remissions in his sentence for good behaviour.
But a defiant Mr Karma is bridling at the prospect of his release on the national holiday, although he says he would be happy to walk free the day after as long as his release was "unconditional".
"Giving me remission is only to avoid international pressure and to create a good image," he told Fairfax Media.
"My point is that Indonesia must realise that it must free me unconditionally, restore my good name.
"It should also free other political prisoners in Papua and elsewhere in Indonesia and stop chasing those who are on wanted list for expressing their freedom of speech."
Mr Karma also vowed to keep campaigning for independence if he is released.
A spokesman for Indonesia’s ministry of law and human rights, Ansharudin, said there were no regulations in the case where a prisoner won’t leave jail.
"It’s illogical. People don’t like to be imprisoned. Normally people are happy to be released," he said.
He said authorities may have to convene a special meeting to determine how to respond to Mr Karma’s demands.
Mr Karma’s arrest for raising a flag prompted widespread international consternation, with the United Nations identifying him as a political prisoner. His sentence was three times that requested by prosecutors.
The Papua region – located to the western half on the island of Papua and sharing a border with Papua New Guinea – is rich in resources but remains one of Indonesia’s poorest and most corrupt regions.
A Dutch colonial outpost even after Indonesia became a nation, it was incorporated into Indonesia in 1969 after a controversial plebiscite of 1025 hand-picked Papuans held in an Indonesian military camp.
Separatist sentiment remains among many of Papua’s traditional Melanesian population while the military and security services have a heavy presence, as well as widespread business interests.
About half of Papua’s population are now migrants from other parts of Indonesia who dominate commercial activity.
Mr Karma rejected clemency from Indonesian president Joko Widodo earlier this year on the grounds it would require a tacit admission of guilt.
Mr Joko has said he wants to improve the welfare of Papuans, sentiments that have drawn qualified praise from Mr Karma in the past.