Papuan  accuses  Indons of genocide

He escaped from prison while on murder and arson charges, spent two years on an international wanted list after Indonesian authorities alleged he was a terrorist and tomorrow he will arrive in Perth.

But West Papua independence movement leader Benny Wenda says Indonesian authorities - his accusers - are the ones guilty of terrible crimes.

He says they are the aggressors in a secret war of genocide being waged against his people less than 500km north of Australia.

Mr Wenda, who is on an international speaking tour to raise awareness about his people's fight for self-determination, said yesterday he was a peaceful political campaigner who was the victim of false allegations intended to silence him.

"They (Indonesia) always say that I am a criminal," he said.

"Actually, it's the other way around. Indonesia is the criminal. They illegally occupied my country and are killing my people."

Mr Wenda, 37, was arrested for murder and arson after allegedly inciting an attack on Indonesian police in 2000. But his Australian lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, said the charges were politically motivated and unfounded. She said Mr Wenda was in a refugee camp in Papua New Guinea at the time of the attack.

"The prosecution was unable to produce any credible evidence," Ms Robinson said. "The judge accepted three witness statements from police from three people we could not identify and they were unable to bring to the courtroom."

In 2002, Mr Wenda escaped from jail through a ventilation shaft, crossed into PNG and went to Britain, which gave him political asylum.

In 2011, Interpol put him under a red flag notice after Indonesia added terrorism to the allegations against him. After a two-year legal battle, his name was cleared and the flag removed.

The catalyst for his activism came when, as a five-year-old in West Papua's central highlands, he allegedly saw Indonesian soldiers rape his aunts and brutally beat his mother.

"I tried to help my mum," he said. "Her face was bleeding right in front of my eyes. I couldn't do anything. I just cried."

Mr Wenda claims that since West Papua voted to become part of Indonesia in 1969 - a ballot he says was forced at gunpoint - authorities have killed about 500,000 West Papuans in their crackdown on separatists. He said many recent killings were by a squad of crack troops known as Detachment 88, who get support from Australia.

WA Greens senator Scott Ludlam, who will speak with Mr Wenda in Perth and echoed the Papuan leader's concerns about Australia's links to Detachment 88, said the people of West Papua had a legitimate claim to self-determination and should not be treated like criminals.

Amnesty International and the Australian Government have urged Indonesia to investigate alleged human rights abuses in Papuan provinces.

A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman said Australia backed Indonesia's sovereignty over the Papuan provinces and that Detachment 88 received help from Australian Federal Police for investigations and forensic assistance.

Mr Wenda said he had never taken up arms for his cause and believed peaceful, political lobbying was the way forward.

"The world is changing," he said. "We don't have any power to resist through the gun.

"The powerful weapon is the peaceful way. The powerful weapon is the truth."

The Indonesian Embassy declined to comment. 'The people of West Papua should not be treated like criminals.'" Greens senator Scott Ludlam

The West Australian

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