Update treason trials: Imprisonment sentences for five KNPB activists

In early May 2019, judges found the Polish citizen Jakub Skrzypski and co-defendant Simon Magal guilty of having committed treasonous acts imprisonment. Skrzypski was sentenced to five years, Simon Magal to four years imprisonment. The judges argued that the public prosecution and the police had gathered sufficient evidence that Jakub Skrzypski had planned to sell weapons to the West Papua National Liberation Movement (TPN-PB), while Simon Magal had allegedly facilitated the trade. However, Jakub Skrzypski states that he is a tourist who was just interested in the Papuans political struggle for independence. He asserts being innocent and rejected the verdict against him. His lawyers stated that he plans to appeal against the verdict.  The head of Amnesty International Indonesia, Usman Hamid, stated in an interview with news outlet Al Jazeera "We consider all of them to be prisoners of conscience who are imprisoned solely for peacefully expressing their political views and [who] have not used violence or hatred - The prosecutor failed to prove any evidence that [Skrzypski] committed treason”.

Shortly after the decision, the judges sentenced the two political activists Yakonias Womsiwor to eighteen months and Erichzon Mandibar to fifteen months imprisonment (see intro image). Both men were arrested on 15 September 2018, as joint security forces raided the branch office of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) in Timika, Mimika regency. The judges argued that both KNPB activists had violated article 214 (1) of the Indonesian criminal code (KUHP) regarding the resisting the orders of public authorities. The defendants’ Lawyer, Veronika Koman, criticized the judges for ‘rushing the decision’. The judges read the verdict immediately after the lawyer had presented their defence statement, without taking the time to consider the defence statement in the verdict. The head of the ‘Association of human rights lawyers for Papua’ (PAHAM Papua) Gustaf Kawer said that Yakonias Womsiwor and Erichzon Mandibar had become victims of non-procedural use of firearms during the security force raid. Yakonias Womsiwor sustained multiple bullet injuries on the ankle, calf and thigh while Erikson Mandibar was twice shot in the calf.

Meanwhile a second political trial against the KNPB activists Yanto Awerkion, Sem Asso, dan Edo Dogopia took place at the district court in Timika. The three activists were initially charged with treason as stipulated in article 106 and 110 KUHP. However, the public prosecutor changed the indictment to article 169 (1) and (3) KUHP on engagement in a criminal organisation. On 28 May 2019, the panel of judges found the three KNPB activists Yanto Awerkion, Sem Asso and Edo Dogopia guilty for the violation of article 169 (1), (3) KUHP. Yanto Awerkion was sentenced to one year, Sem Asso to ten months and Edo Dogopia to eight months imprisonment. The verdict followed the sentence demanded by the public prosecution without taking into account the arguments presented by the defence. The judges argued that the freedom of expression may not interfere with "public rules" and regulations. "The verdict shows that the judges act as the ‘extended arm’ of the government, without respecting indigenous Papuans freedom of expression", the defendants' lawyers commented in response to the verdict.

The KNPB advocates for a referendum on the political status of West Papua through non-violent means. Indonesian authorities argue that the KNPB is not subscribed in the list of official organisations as requested by the government authority for national and political unity (KESBANGPOL). The three activists were arrested for organising a prayers session in commemoration of the organisation’s anniversary, which was forcefully dispersed by security force members on the 31 December 2018.