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A Polish man was sentenced to five years in prison for treason on Thursday after meeting with rebels in the restive Indonesian province of Papua.

Jakub Fabian Skrzypski, 39, was arrested in August and accused of plotting to overthrow the Indonesian government and making contact with an outlawed separatist group.

“The charges of treason have been proven legally and convincingly,” said Wamena district court head judge Yajid, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

Skrzypski has denied all wrongdoing and his lawyer Latifah Anum Siregar told AFP he would appeal the verdict, which was lighter than the 10 years’ jail demanded by prosecutors.

Jakarta is deeply sensitive about Papua, where a low-level insurgency against the central government has simmered for years and routinely blames separatists for violence in the region.

Prosecutors said the Pole had met with leaders of the Free Papua Organisation (OPM) and was found with documents and video detailing the Papuan struggle for independence.

Papua shares a border with independent Papua New Guinea (PNG), just north of Australia.

The former Dutch colony declared itself independent in 1961, but neighbouring Indonesia took control of the region two years later on the condition it allows a referendum on independence.

About 1,000 handpicked Papuans then unanimously chose to be part of Indonesia in the UN-backed vote, which many consider a sham.

One of Indonesia’s poorest regions, Papua has seen several spasms of violence over the past year, including in December when at least 16 employees of a state-owned company — who were building bridges in a major infrastructure push for the impoverished region — were killed by separatist rebels.

Indonesian security forces have long been accused of rights abuses against Papua’s ethnic Melanesian population including extrajudicial killings of activists and peaceful protestors. – AFP

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