Consulate denies threatening activists - but academic has a different story

West Papuan activists who climbed into Australian consulate in Bali

ABC News 7 October 2013

Australia's Consul-General in Bali has denied making threats to three West Papuan protesters who sought refuge inside the consulate.

Student activists Rofinus Yanggam, Yuvensius Goo and Markus Jerewon climbed the wall of the consulate in the early hours of Sunday morning, but left later in the day.

The men were calling for the release of at least 55 political prisoners jailed in Indonesia's disputed Papua region, and open access to the area for journalists.

The protesters said they were "seeking refuge" in the consulate, but left after Australian officials told them they would be arrested by Indonesian authorities if they stayed.

But a Foreign Affairs Department spokesman says Consul-General Brett Farmer did not make threats, and explained to the three men they were free to leave voluntarily.

Trade Minister Andrew Robb, who is in Bali, had earlier said the men did not seek asylum and left the complex voluntarily.

Academic overheard 'threats', says protesters feared for their lives

VIDEO: West Papua expert Clinton Fernandes joins ABC News Breakfast (ABC News)

However, Associate Professor Clinton Fernandes, an expert on West Papua, has a different interpretation of events.

He says he heard a phone conversation in which an Australian official threatened the trio, leading them to fear for their lives if they were handed over to Indonesian authorities.

"They had the phone on while they were being berated by whoever it was, with an Australian accent," he told ABC News Breakfast.

"It was very, very threatening - the word threat is accurate. There was not a polite conversation.

"They were being threatened with having the military called in and the police. They feared for their lives."
"They [Australian authorities] tried everything, they did everything they could to get them out of the consulate before [Tony] Abbott arrived this morning."

The Prime Minister is in Bali for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

Associate Professor Fernandes says the three men are still in Bali.

"They're in hiding, they're fearful for what will happen to them after the APEC circus moves on, but they're safe at the moment," he said.

Greens say Government's explanation 'doesn't make sense'

Greens senator Richard Di Natale is calling on the Federal Government to explain the circumstances under which the protesters were asked to leave.

"The idea that these three West Papuans would go out, stick their necks out in the way that they did, make international headlines and simply leave the consulate and expose themselves to great danger just doesn't make sense," he said.

"In fact the reports indicate that they were threatened with being handed over to the authorities."

He says he will raise the issue in Parliament when it returns.

"I intend to pursue this matter through the Parliamentary process, we have the opportunity to get this detailed information through the estimates process," he said.

"I'll be writing to the Foreign Minister demanding a full explanation of what happened."