Indonesian president postpones Dutch visit

Tue Oct 5, 2010 10:24am GMT

By Sunanda Creagh and Olivia Rondonuwu

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said on Tuesday he had postponed his visit to the Netherlands after pro-Moluccan human rights activists asked a Dutch court to order his arrest.

Yudhoyono was scheduled to arrive in the Netherlands on Wednesday for a three-day state visit. He was at the airport in Jakarta preparing to leave when he suddenly called a news conference to announce the visit was off.

"In recent days, a group has filed a request to the court to make an issue out of human rights in Indonesia and request the court to arrest me during the state visit. The group includes Dutch citizens and also the RMS," he said.

"What I cannot accept is if the president of Indonesia makes a visit to the Netherlands, after an invitation from the Netherlands, the court decides to arrest the president of Indonesia."

The news is unlikely to cause long-term damage to Indonesia's relationship with its former colonial ruler, but could be an attempt to put pressure on the Dutch government to address Dutch-based Moluccan separatists and their sympathisers.

Indigenous groups in the southern Moluccas, particularly on Ambon island, have long agitated for the creation of an independent Republic of the Southern Moluccas (RMS).

Some were jailed in the past couple of years for performing a war dance associated with the movement. Indonesian police were recently accused of torturing several activists associated with the movement who were arrested after they were found with banned flags and books.

A spokesman for the Dutch prime minister's office said Indonesian authorities had not yet given a clear response on Yudhoyono's visit.   Continued...

<p>Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (C) inspects military forces during the 65th anniversary of the military at a base in Jakarta, October 5, 2010. REUTERS/Enny Nuraheni</p>
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