Van Bommel urges freeing of Moluccan political prisoners before Indonesian President's visit

2 July 2010

Van Bommel urges freeing of Moluccan political prisoners before Indonesian President's visit

SP Member of Parliament Harry van Bommel has asked Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen to bring pressure to bear for the freeing of a number of political prisoners in the Moluccan Islands. The SP foreign affairs spokesman was prompted to put the question by a report from Human Rights Watch (HRW), sections of which concern the extremely long sentences and ill treatment meted out to political prisoners in the Moluccans. Van Bommel is demanding action from the Minister and wants to see results prior to this autumn's state visit of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Harry van BommelHRW pays extensive attention in its report to the situation of political prisoners in the Moluccans. The best known of these is Johan Teterissa, the leader of a dance group which, during a traditional dance in the presence of President Yudhoyono, unfurled the flag of the independence movement RMS. This led to the violent arrest of the dance troupe activists, who received extremely long sentences. Teterissa was initially sentenced to life imprisonment, but this was later commuted to fifteen years. He has complained to human rights organisations of ill treatment on numerous occasions.

According to Van Bommel, immediate release would be a reasonable demand and what's needed , also, is a change in the existing law. "Pressure should be put on the Indonesian government to change the law so that it is brought into line with international treaties. Showing the RMS flag should come under freedom of expression.” Amnesty International has in the recent past also issued strong demands for the release of political prisoners in the Moluccans, while HRW draws attention in addition to Densus 88, the Australian- and US-trained anti-terrorist unit of the Indonesian police, which is guilty of torturing the prisoners, demanding that an end be put to such support. Van Bommel endorses this demand, and has asked the Dutch Interior Minister to guarantee that the Netherlands has no involvement with Densus 88. It is known that the Netherlands has given support for some time to an Indonesian anti-terror unit, but whether or not this is Densus 88 is unclear.

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