Indonesia cancels Netherlands visit over arrest threat

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (5 October 2010)
Image caption Mr Yudhoyono was reportedly onboard his plane at Jakarta's airport when he decided to cancel

Indonesia's President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has called off a state visit to the Netherlands because of a threat that he could be arrested.

A separatist group, the Republic of South Moluccas (RMS), has asked a court to order his detention in connection with alleged human rights violations.

Mr Yudhoyono said that if he had gone ahead with the three-day visit, it might have led to a "misunderstanding".

Indonesian authorities crushed the RMS after it declared independence in 1950.

It was revived following the fall of President Suharto in 1998, and is currently based in the Netherlands, Indonesia's former colonial power.

From 1999 until 2002, ethnic violence in the Moluccas islands left an estimated 5,000 people dead and displaced 500,000 others.

A spokeswoman for a court in The Hague confirmed that the RMS had asked for an injunction to have Mr Yudhoyono arrested on arrival.

The group wanted him to face prosecution for the alleged human rights violations and the physical abuse of political prisoners, she added.

Mr Yudhoyono was reportedly already onboard his plane at Jakarta's airport on Tuesday when he decided to cancel the state visit.

"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 to the Netherlands," he told reporters afterwards.

"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 BBC contacted the Dutch embassy in Jakarta about the president's plans but they had no comment.

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