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West Papuan refugee threatened by Interpol arrest


Benny Wenda and fellow West Papuans sing their national anthem at a conference in Oxford.
Photo by Nick Harvey.

West Papuan independence leader Benny Wenda has been named on an Interpol wanted list in a move viewed by many as politically motivated.

Just days before Papuan Independence Day on 1 December, Interpol, the international police organization, issued a red notice for the arrest of the Oxford-based founder of the Free West Papua Campaign.

Wenda, 37, who has lived in the UK with his wife and six children since being granted asylum in 2003, is wanted by Indonesia for several offences he is alleged to have committed before he left, including inciting an attack on a police station.

West Papua has been controlled by Indonesia since the 1960s and Wenda has been a key voice in recent years calling for its independence. Many insist the charges against him and the Interpol notice are just attempts to silence him.

‘Benny Wenda has travelled half way around the world to escape persecution but he continues to be threatened from afar for by Indonesia,’ says Jago Russell, chief executive of Fair Trials International. ‘Interpol must remove the politically-motivated red notice against Benny and improve its accountability mechanisms so that it can live up to its stated commitment to political neutrality and human rights.’

In 2002 Wenda was arrested, detained and prosecuted for allegedly encouraging others to attack a police station.  No witnesses appeared at trial to testify against him but after receiving death threats while in detention Wenda escaped through a ventilation shaft and made his way to the UK.

The UK does not have an extradition treaty with Indonesia meaning any attempt at deportation would be unlikely to succeed. But the Interpol notice has left Wenda afraid to travel for fear that he will be arrested and returned to Indonesia.

To read more see recent reports by the Guardian and BBC.

For recent New Internationalist coverage of West Papua see:
West Papua: the road to freedom
West Papua freedom Songs
West Papua needs our help- act now!

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