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Indonesia arrests 31 after separatist protest

Indonesian police have arrested 31 people after dancers staged a separatist protest in front of the president in restive Ambon last week.

world Updated: Jul 01, 2007 11:22 IST

AFP
Hindustantimes
         

Indonesian police have arrested 31 people after dancers staged a separatist protest in front of the president in restive Ambon last week, reports said on Sunday.

Acting Maluku police spokesman Djoko Susilo said that the 28 protestors plus three others were seized after the group danced in front of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and unfurled a separatist flag, Kompas newspaper said.

"We will resolve this case down to its very roots," Susilo said, as criticism of security forces for failing to prevent the incident mounted.

He reportedly said that the 31 suspects could face charges of conspiring to plot against the state, which carries up to 15 years in jail.
The protesters launched into their dance during a speech by the provincial governor at a ceremony in the Maluku capital of Ambon, where a separatist movement has simmered for decades.

They then pulled the banned flag of the South Maluku Republic (RMS) out of a traditional local drum.

Military chief Djoko Suyanto was quoted by the Media Indonesia daily as saying that the incident had publicly embarrassed the president and an investigation into the security failure was underway.

The national military and police spokesmen could not immediately be reached.

The RMS was crushed by Jakarta shortly after it was declared in 1950, but the movement supporting it was revived after the fall of authoritarian president Suharto in 1998.

Ambon and other islands in the Maluku chain have also been the scene of a sectarian conflict that has left more than 5,000 Christians and Muslims dead since January 1999.

Government-sponsored peace talks in 2002 failed to end the violence and sporadic clashes and tensions persist.

First Published: Jul 01, 2007 11:19 IST