Monday, June 26, 2006

Catholic group accuses Jayapura police of torture

A Catholic human rights group has accused regional police of torturing 23 Papuans arrested after violent protests in March. The Peace and Justice Secretariat of the Catholic diocese in Papua's provincial capital, Jayapura, alleged cases of physical and mental abuse, and intimidation of prisoners. The claims coincided with the Batam summit between Prime Minister John Howard and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, called over Australia's policy towards Papua asylum seekers.

The 23 were arrested after the 16 and 17 March student demonstrations outside Jayapura's Cendrawasih University which demanded the closure of the Freeport copper mine. Four policemen, an air force soldier and a civilian were killed in the riots, prompting hundreds of students to flee their homes and dormitories in fear of reprisals by security forces.

The Peace and Justice Secretariat told the Sydney Morning Herald its staff and representatives from other church groups interviewed three of the 23 detainees at the regional police cells in Jayapura. The prisoners said wounds on their faces were sustained during days of police interrogation and they were being kept in crowded cells, the report noted. One prisoner said they had been tortured for information during the first few weeks and a senior police officer had threatened to shoot him and had aimed a gun at his mouth. Prisoners also told interviewers they had not seen their legal counsel appointed by the authorities and so were at a loss when they fronted up in court. Two of them said they were maltreated by police two hours before the court hearing started, in a bid to get them to confess they were involved in the deaths of the police officers and air force soldier. "They were kicked with army boots, struck on the head and body with rifle butts and rubber truncheons," the report said.

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