Updated: 12/17/2013 16:06 | By Agence France-Presse

Canadian activist visits Papua prisoners after bike tour

A Canadian activist has visited jailed independence supporters in Indonesia's Papua at the end of a six-month bicycle tour to highlight human rights concerns about the restive eastern region.


Canadian activist visits Papua prisoners after bike tour

Canadian activist Jeremy Bally speaks to reporters after handing over postcards to prisoners in Abepura, Papua, on December 16, 2013

Jeremy Bally delivered 40 postcards collected from people supporting the Papuan cause during his bike tour to the inmates at Abepura jail in the east of the region on Monday.

"I hope to remind these unjustly jailed individuals that their story is not lost, and will not be ignored," the 26-year-old said.

Despite fears security forces might try to stop him from visiting the prison, he met the inmates without any problems.

Among them was Filep Karma, whom Amnesty International says is serving a 15-year sentence for taking part in a 2004 ceremony which involved the raising of the Morning Star flag, a pro-independence symbol.

Bally also used his tour to call for greater access for foreign journalists and rights activists to Papua. Jakarta currently only allows very limited access to both groups to the region. 

Bally managed to enter on a business visa.

Independence supporters jailed in Papua are generally convicted of treason for offences such as raising the Morning Star and taking part in anti-government protests. 

Poorly-armed guerrillas from the Free Papua Movement have waged a low-level insurgency against Indonesian security forces since Jakarta took control of Papua from former colonial power the Netherlands in 1963.

Indonesian troops are regularly accused of abusing Papuan villagers in the name of anti-rebel operations, but Jakarta denies allegations of systematic human rights abuses.

Bally set off from Victoria in the western Canadian province of British Columbia in late May, and cycled 12,000 kilometres (7,400 miles) through seven countries including the US, Britain and Australia.

The bike tour officially ended at the start of December in Australia and Bally flew to the Indonesian capital Jakarta, and then on to the eastern region which comprises two provinces, Papua and West Papua.

While in the region, he cycled around Jayapura, close to Abepura, and played his ukulele in the city.

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