21 Oct 2008

Indonesian police detain at least 15 people

12:34 pm on 21 October 2008

Indonesian police have detained at least 15 people and stopped over 2,000 people from participating in a planned independence rally in resource-rich Papua province yesterday.

A Reuters witness said police blocked roads as hundreds of Papuans began streaming in for the rally in Jayapura, capital of remote Papua, where independence activists have waged a campaign for nearly 40 years to break away from Indonesia.

The coordinator of the rally said he had sought police permission for the rally.

Separatist groups have stepped up protests in Papua in recent months.

The province has witnessed several rallies to demand a referendum on Papuan independence and Papuans have hoisted the outlawed separatist "Morning Star" flag in public places on some occasions.

There have also been small bomb blasts, including at an airport and near a copper mine run by the local unit of U.S. mining firm Freeport McMoran Copper & Gold Inc.

Freeport's Grasberg mine in Papua has been a frequent source of controversy over its environmental impact and the share of revenue going to Papuans.