Human Rights Activist Barred From Entering U.S. Days Before Speaking Engagement in Long Beach

benny-smile-e1431706573827Nobel Peace Prize nominee and West Papua independence leader Benny Wenda was detained at Heathrow Airport days before a scheduled speaking engagement in Long Beach, the Free West Papua Campaign (FWPC) announced Friday.

Wenda was scheduled to speak at the Grace United Methodist Church on Third Street tomorrow to raise awareness about West Papua’s (Western New Guinea) fight for independence from Indonesia before he was detained in London.

According to a release issued Friday, Wenda was halted by U.S. Homeland Security while attempting to board a Virgin Atlantic flight from London to Los Angeles on Wednesday after staff found an alert regarding Wenda on their passport system.

Wenda told officials “I am a Human Rights campaigner from West Papua, I am exiled and am campaigning for West Papua,” the release said. The FWPC said officials had not responded to FWPC’s inquiries as to why authorities prevented Wenda from flying.

The FWPC’s Facebook page indicated that Wenda’s speaking engagement scheduled for today in Los Angeles was held as scheduled, with Wenda making an appearance via Skype. 

A release sent last week detailed Wenda’s years as an advocate for West Papua independence, including years spent in hiding from the Indonesian military after the country attacked West Papua. He was imprisoned for his subsequent advocacy, imprisoned, tortured, and eventually exiled. After seeking asylum in the United Kingdom, Wenda settled in London, where he currently lives with his family.

According to Friday’s announcement, Wenda was issued a 10 year business visa in 2014 after being denied one from 2005 to 2013. He has visited congressional officials in Washington D.C., since being issued the visa, the FWPC said.

Support our journalism.

Hyperlocal news is an essential force in our democracy, but it costs money to keep an organization like this one alive, and we can’t rely on advertiser support alone. That’s why we’re asking readers like you to support our independent, fact-based journalism. We know you like it—that’s why you’re here. Help us keep hyperlocal news alive in Long Beach.