Activists say Buchtar Tabuni, seen as a mastermind of recent protests, was forcibly taken into custody by armed troops
A West Papuan independence group has accused the Indonesian police of “abducting” a leading West Papuan activist in a dramatic arrest on Monday.
The United Liberation Movement for West Papua, whose exiled leader is Benny Wenda, said in a statement that a joint strike force of Indonesian police and military surrounded the home of the high-profile activist Buchtar Tabuni early on Monday morning.
The group claims several shots were fired and four armed troops surrounded Tabuni before he was taken into custody, with no prior notice or summons.
A national police spokesperson, Dedi Prasetyo, confirmed Tabuni’s arrest for suspected treason, telling the Guardian the Papuan regional police had handled the arrest in the context of “ensuring security and order in Jayapura and Papua in general”.
Tabuni, who is a key member of the West Papuan leadership along with Wenda, is seen as a mastermind of protests that have spread across West Papua and other provinces in recent weeks.
The exiled leader Benny Wenda told the Guardian the deteriorating situation in West Papua required United Nations intervention.
“Indonesia is sending 6,000 troops on military exercises to West Papua. There is no war going on, this is peaceful demonstrators against a huge military. My people are in danger. We need to act now before it is too late.”
In a show of force, and perhaps an indication of a willingness to escalate military action if protests continue, the Indonesian military conducted exercises at Sentani and Wamena airfields in Papua. Footage from Jayapura showed dozens of paratroopers parachuting from the back of an airforce plane, part of a Quick Reaction Strike Force exercise.
Indonesia’s defence force chief, Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto, said the exercises were held annually at different locations across Indonesia, and this year was organised for Papua. “The jump drills ran smoothly and safely,” he said.
Indonesia’s ministry of public works and public housing has dedicated IDR100bn (US$7m) for rebuilding state offices destroyed by protesters during protests in Jayapura in Papua on 29 August.