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Six Charged With Treason in Indonesia After Papua Protest

Paulus Suryanta Ginting, a pro-Papuan activist who was arrested on suspicion of treason, talks to journalists in a courtroom before his trial at Central Jakarta District Court, in Jakarta, Indonesia, Dec. 19, 2019.

An Indonesian prosecutor charged five men and a woman with treason on Thursday, accusing them of organizing a protest in Jakarta demanding independence for the easternmost province of Papua.

The peaceful protest of about 100 people had been held outside the presidential palace and military headquarters on Aug. 28 and followed a period of unrest in Papua.

Prosecutor P. Permana read out the indictment in the Central Jakarta court saying the six defendants had organized a rally demanding the Indonesian government allow a vote in Papua to let it separate from Indonesia One of the six waved the "Morning Star" flag, while dancing and singing, the indictment said. The flag is a banned symbol of Papuan nationhood.

"The action by the defendants is treason with the aim to separate Papua province and West Papua province from the unitary state of Indonesia," said Permana.

There was a small protest outside the court on Thursday held by pro-Papuan activists calling for the release of the six.

The six could face up to 20 years in jail if found guilty.

A hearing for the defense is due on Jan. 2, but the six have said it was their constitutional right to participate in the rally.

Resource-rich Papua was a Dutch colony that was incorporated into Indonesia after a controversial U.N.-backed referendum in 1969. The region has since endured decades of mostly low-level separatist conflict.