Before Obama leaves for Indonesia…

In June, when President Obama travels back to Indonesia – where he spent four years of his childhood – he can help shine a light on the shameful imprisonment of more than 100 prisoners of conscience detained in the country as of last year.

Two men are locked up in Indonesia for the simple act of raising a flag. Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage are two of the prisoners of conscience serving sentences in Indonesia today. They were found guilty of “rebellion” for flying the outlawed symbol of Papuan independence as a sign of peaceful protest of Indonesian government policy. Their peaceful act resulted in 15 and 10-year prison sentences, respectively.

Not too long ago, Amnesty International USA received a letter from Filep and Yusak. In it, they expressed their sincerest thanks for all the work AI done on their behalf since their arrest. Despite the hardships they’ve faced in prison, Filep and Yusak remain hopeful.

First of all, Mr. Karma and I, on behalf of all Papuan people, would like to express our immense gratitude to the United States Congress for the letter it recently sent to Indonesian President SBY requesting Mr.Karma’s and my release from prison. We do not have anything to give the Congressmen and women who signed this letter in return except our heartfelt prayers to God. We pray that God will bring his blessings to all who are working, through thought and deed, towards solutions for those of us suffering in West Papua.

Your letter has brought us much joy, even as we stand behind iron bars. This happiness is not just felt by us, but by all the people of Papua. This communal happiness is evident by the fact that day and night, for three-straight-days, we have received phone calls nonstop from Papuan people wanting to share in the good news—the U.S. Congress is pressing for the release of Yusak and Filep from Indonesian jail! People have also been moved to tears, showing the depth of their thankfulness to the U.S. Congress.

The Papuan people and I are only able to give our sincere thanks. We do not have anything to give in return for this positive action taken by the U.S. Congress. We can only pray that God will bless your work, your homes, your grandchildren, and the country of the United States of America. We can only pray morning and night for you and for all the people who are thinking of us including Amnesty International, other NGOs, and church members. We also pray for all our friends in organizations from institutions of higher education including those in America, England and Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and Malaysia who have sent us letters throughout our time in jail. We hope that God will return their kindness.

Thank you, may Jesus our Lord bless you.

Abepura Jail, August 8, 2008

Yusak Pakage, SH

Next month, as President Obama embarks on a trip to meet with Indonesian President Yudhoyono as a part of a larger Asia-Pacific tour, he can deliver a message that would finally restore the men’s confiscated rights. But his message would carry greater weight with Indonesia’s government if it is also backed by Congressional action. Fortunately, Congressman Patrick Kennedy recently introduced House Resolution 1355 on behalf of Filep, Yusak and other prisoners of conscience in Indonesia. If enough members of Congress support this resolution, a clear and united message will be sent to Indonesian officials that the U.S. wants allies who support freedom of expression, not suppress it.

More Representatives need to sign on now. Click here to email your Representative to request for support for House Resolution 1355 and stand up to protect human rights in Indonesia.

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