NZ protesters call for release of W Papuan political prisoners
Protesters in New Zealand join international action calling on Indonesia to release West Papua's political prisoners.
Protesters in New Zealand have joined international action urging Indonesia to release West Papua's political prisoners.
According to the group, Papuans Behind Bars, at least 76 political prisoners are being held in jails in West Papua.
A vigil will be held in Auckland tonight while activists in Wellington gathered outside the Indonesian Embassy this afternoon.
Our reporter Amelia Langford was at the Wellington protest.
The small group held photos of Papuan political prisoners and remained silent with their hands bound as a sign of solidarity with those imprisoned. Green Party MP, Catherine Delahunty, who took part in the protest, says people in West Papua have been jailed for exercising their basic democratic rights.
CATHERINE DELAHUNTY: These political prisoners really need our support, they are alone in a country with no independent media, they are alone in a country with no Red Cross, they are alone in a country where there are no civil or human rights maintained by the government.
Catherine Delahunty gives the example of Filep Karma who was jailed for 15 years for raising the West Papuan Morning Star flag. She describes West Papua as the Palestine of the South Pacific and says the New Zealand Government should take action.
CATHERINE DELAHUNTY: The very least New Zealand could do is call on Indonesia to set these prisoners free, they are not criminals, they are political prisoners who should be set free, and New Zealand should stop funding the training programme for the police in West Papua instead of which, where they they should be calling on Indonesia to stop the human rights abuses.
Another Green MP, Eugenie Sage, says the environmental impact of Indonesian rule in West Papua is also a concern.
EUGENIE SAGE: We have a right to freedom of speech here, we can express our views on anything, we can stand and protest, they do not have that right in West Papua, the environmental damage that's occurring under the Indonesian regime, the inability of people to have a voice and protest about that is why I am here.
The Wellington protest was a small crowd, with a turnout of only a handful of people. But one of the protesters, Julianne Leggett, says New Zealanders would be shocked if they knew more about West Papua.
JULIANNE LEGGETT: I think it is outrageous the way the people of West Papua are being treated - their aspirations for political autonomy are being legitimately expressed through peaceful protest.
Another protester, Gabrielle George, says a lot of young people don't know anything about West Papua.
GABRIELLE GEORGE: The fact that not many people know about it, and the fact that the information is so stifled from within Indonesia, so it is important to make it public, make it more widespread throughout New Zealand, and for young people as well to know that so close to us, there is injustice going on.
Gabrielle George says she is hopeful that her actions can help West Papua and points to East Timor's independence after years of protest over Indonesian occupation. Protests outside Indonesian embassies are taking place around the world, including London and Australia.
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