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Interpol drops 'red notice' for dissident Benny Wenda; case was mainly 'political'

Leon Neal / AFP - Getty Images, file

Benny Wenda, leader of the West Papuan Independence Movement, attends a protest in London on April 15, 2010.

LONDON -- Global policing body Interpol has dropped a wanted notice for an Indonesian dissident after authorities ruled the case against him was “predominantly political in nature.”

Benny Wenda, who campaigns for his native West Papua to become independent from Indonesia, was convicted of inciting people to attack a police station and an arson attack that resulted in several deaths. However, he escaped from prison while awaiting sentence in 2002.

Wenda later arrived in the U.K. and successfully claimed political asylum, arguing that the case against him was a fabrication designed to stop his political activities.

Earlier this year, NBCNews.com reported that Interpol had issued a “red notice” for him, which alerts law enforcement agencies worldwide that he is wanted by an Interpol member state. Some countries treat red notices as an arrest warrant, but the U.K. took no steps to detain Wenda.

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In a letter to campaign group Fair Trials International, the Commission for the Control of Interpol’s Files admitted the case against Wenda was “predominantly political in nature” and said Interpol had deleted the red notice.

“Interpol should be used to fight serious crime but Indonesia has been misusing it to threaten a peaceful political activist,” Jago Russell, chief executive of Fair Trials International, was quoted as saying in a statement. “We are delighted that Interpol has now woken up to this abuse but Benny’s case is not unique and safeguards are needed to stop other countries misusing Interpol and destroying lives and reputations in the process.”

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The statement said that while the red notice was active Wenda had been “unable to travel to attend campaign events to promote his cause” because of the risk of arrest.

A report by the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at the Yale Law School in 2003 found that "the West Papuan people have suffered persistent and horrible abuses" at the hands of the Indonesian government since the area was annexed by Indonesia in 1969.

It also accused Indonesian military and security forces of engaging in "widespread violence and extrajudicial killings."

Human Rights Watch's World Report 2012 said that the U.S. provides "extensive military assistance to Indonesia" and added that "impunity for members of Indonesia’s security forces remains a serious concern, with no civilian jurisdiction over soldiers who commit serious human rights abuses."


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