Indonesia arrests dozens of Papua protests that set fire to buildings

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JAKARTA – Indonesian police have arrested dozens of people in the easternmost region of Papua following protests last week in which the buildings were burned, a police spokesman said Sunday.

The area has been overwhelmed by civil unrest for two weeks due to perceived racial and ethnic discrimination. Some protesters also demand a vote for independence, although the authorities have ruled out this possibility.

In the provincial capital of Jayapura, 28 people were arrested and named suspects, and other face investigations, police spokesman Ahmad Kamal said by telephone.

"Twenty-eight people are suspected of having damaging and burning property, violence, provocation and looting," Kamal said, adding that everyone had been arrested after a protest at Jayapura on Thursday.

The rioters burned cars and buildings, including a local parliamentary office and a building that houses the offices of the state-controlled telecommunications company, during the protest.

Kamal said that the situation in Papua is now calmer.

In the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, two students suspected of crimes against state security were arrested, police said on a note Saturday.

The evidence against them included their cell phones and a shirt and a shawl decorated with the "Morning Star" flag motif, a forbidden symbol of Papuan nationality.

Lawyer Michael Himan of Jakarta said the two were arrested by a Papuan dormitory in Depok, in the southern part of the capital, last Friday.

They were accused of scrupulous intentions against the nation's unity, Himan told Reuters on Sunday.

In a statement, the Jakarta Legal Aid reported that police also arrested several other Papuan students and an activist in Jakarta on Saturday.

Himan has stated that the reason for the rest is not yet clear. Jakarta national police and police spokesmen were not immediately available to comment. -Reuters

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