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Indonesia releases Papuan political prisoners

The Indonesian government has released five Papuan political prisoners, as President Joko Widodo promised reforms.

The president told media on Saturday, restrictions on foreign journalists in the restive province of West Papua, which have been in place for decades, will be lifted.

The five political prisoners – convicted over a 2003 raid on an Indonesian military weapons arsenal – were granted clemency by Widodo in a ceremony at Abepura prison, in the provincial capital Jayapura.

Dozens of Papuan activists remain in prison, many for protesting against the government and raising the banned Morning Star flag of Papua, both considered acts of treason by the government.

“Today we are releasing these five detainees to stop the stigma of conflict in Papua,” he told reporters at the prison. “We need to create a sense of peace in Papua. This is just the beginning.”

Papuans have demanded a referendum on independence ever since West Papua was incorporated into Indonesia in 1969, with sporadic violence breaking out between poorly-armed Papuans and Indonesian forces for decades.

Indonesian security forces have been accused of widespread human rights abuses and genocide during the ongoing conflict.

West Papua is mineral rich and mainly inhabited by Melanesians, many of whom live in remote areas of the island of Papua and have nothing in common with the rest of Indonesia.

Investigation into Papua deaths promised by Indonesian leader (29 December 2014)

Missing West Papuan independence activist found dead (28 August 2014)

French journalists arrested in Papua (16 August 2014)

Papuan activists killed by police (17 Dec 2012) 

Protests against royal welcome for Indonesian president (31 Oct 2012) 

Papuan separatist leader killed (14 Jun 2012)

Clashes as Papuans mark anniversary of independence declaration (01 Dec 2011) 

Report accuses Indonesian police of brutality against Papuans (05 Nov 2011)

Security forces attack, as Papua declares independence (19 Oct 2011)

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