Updated: 04/03/2013 15:08 | By Agence France-Presse

Confused Indonesia police arrest 17 over French flag

Police in eastern Indonesia arrested 17 local supporters of France's football team, mistaking their hoisted French flag for a bold separatist statement, police said.


Confused Indonesia police arrest 17 over French flag

Photo illustration of the French flag. Police in eastern Indonesia arrested 17 local supporters of France's football team, mistaking their hoisted French flag for a bold separatist statement, police said.

The men, illegal gold miners on Pulau Buru in the Muluku Islands chain, raised the French flag in the street ahead of a World Cup qualifier match between France and Spain last week.

But police confused the French tricolour with the similar outlawed flag of the Republic of South Maluku (RMS) separatist movement.

"The RMS flag looks exactly like the French flag, but it has an extra green stripe," Buru Island police spokesman Istanto, who goes by one name, told AFP.

"The men were kept overnight until police confirmed the flag was indeed the French flag."

He said there were many French fans in the area but did not know why.

Indonesia has strict laws against separatism, in 2008 handing down a life sentence to a man in the Maluku islands capital of Ambon for displaying the RMS flag in front of the visiting president.

Thousands of RMS supporters have been granted asylum in the Netherlands, where they have established a government in exile.

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