Subject: Papuan Political Prisoner ‘Denied Proper Health Tr eatment:' Human Rights Activists

The Jakarta Globe

April 23, 2010

Political Prisoner 'Denied Proper Health Treatment'

by Nivell Rayda

Papuan political prisoner Filep Karma suffered for eight months with a bladder infection but in that time the only help he received was to be told by prison officers to lift his legs to ease the pain, human rights activists said on Thursday.

Human Rights group Amnesty International ranks Filep on a par with Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi as a champion for human rights, for the way he has consistently employed non-violence to promote his cause.

Filep, 50, was sentenced to 15 years in jail in 2004 for raising the banned Bintang Kejora, or Morning Star flag, an outlawed separatist symbol. The activist is now serving his sentence at the Abepura Penitentiary, located in the outskirts of Jayapura, the provincial capital.

In August 2009, Filep complained about his condition to prison officials but did not receive any medical treatment.

"It wasn't until August 17 when a reporter from a local newspaper, who came to cover remissions or pardons granted to prisoners as part of the Independence Day pardon program, took a picture of Filep," Cyntia Warwe, a close friend of Filep, told the Jakarta Globe.

"The day the news was published, Filep was rushed to Jayapura Hospital. He spent three days in intensive care." However, Cyntia said, doctors there could do little to help him and recommended that he be transferred to the Cikini Hospital in Jakarta.

Cyntia said the penitentiary has been making excuses ever since for not letting Filep move to Jakarta.

"They said they didn't have money for his medical treatment. Later we chipped in to cover all the medical expenses, but now the officials are saying that they need us to cover expenses for his police escort as well," Cyntia said.

Chandran Lestyono, spokesman for the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, which oversees the country's penal system, urged the family to be patient.

"The process is long," Chandran said.

"We have to coordinate with the police to guard the prisoner during his time in Jakarta. Then there are financial issues. The medical budget at each prison is limited, sometimes as little as Rp 15,000 [$1.67] per prisoner per year. To cope with the financial problem we must coordinate with the Ministry of Health."

Benny Giay, chairman of Papuan human rights group Elsham, alleged that the government had denied Filep medical care, one of the most basic of human rights. "Many political prisoners are left to die in prison. They become outcasts and are discriminated against," Benny said.

Cyntia said time was running out for Filep.

"I met him last week. He was very skinny and pale," she said.

Andreas Harsono, Indonesian representative of New York-based Human Rights Watch, lamented Filep's treatment.

"People like Filep have to live in inhumane conditions, particularly political prisoners. They also become victims of extortion and constant human rights violations," Andreas told the Globe. "There are 70 political prisoners in Papua and some are seriously ill, some because of physical abuse, but they are not receiving proper treatment."

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