Sixth update on trials and detentions after anti-racism riots in West Papua

  • Print

This article provides an overview on trials related to Papua-wide anti-racism protests between late August and late September 2019 as well as the subsequent wave of criminalisation against human rights defenders and political activists. The International Coalition for Papua summarised earlier stages of the legal proceedings and detentions in previous articles (first update, second update, third update, fourth update, fifth update). The following article covers recent developments in relation to the riots throughout March 2020.

Statistical data suggests that Indonesian police officers reportedly conducted at least 525 arrests between 18 August and 25 September 2019. Subsequently, the police and the public prosecutors initiated legal processes against at least 116 suspects. Twenty-two of them have been charged with treason for participating in demonstrations against racism or peacefully advocating for the right to self-determination.

Update on trials in relation to Jayapura riots
The first trials in relation to the civil unrest on 28 August 2019 in Jayapura already began in early November 2019. Twenty-nine defendants were tried at the Jayapura District Court in multiple legal processes with varying indictments. The legal process against one defendant was dropped after lawyer proofed that he was still a minor. Twenty-eight defendants were sentenced to six months imprisonment, although their indictments strongly varied. Seventeen defendants have appealed against the verdict, claiming that they are innocent and have not been involved in any criminal acts during the riots. Donny Itlay, a member of the movement organisation West Papua National Committee (KNPB), was sentenced to seven months imprisonment. He was found guilty for fencing stolen goods.

Update on situation of seven Papuan political detainees in Kalimantan
The trial against the seven Papuan political activists Fery Kombo, Alexander Gobay, Hengki Hilapok, Buchtar Tabuni, Irwanus Uropmabin, Stevanus Itlay and Agus Kossay at the Balikpapan District Court is still ongoing. The panel of judges rejected the defense plea and began with the examination of witnesses. The first witness, a police officer, testified in court on 12 March 2020 in relation to the trial against Irwanus Uropmabin, Alexander Gobay, and Hengki Hilapok. The examination resulted in an argument with the defendant's lawyer after finding various inconsistencies in the officer’s testimony. The lawyers understood these inconsistencies as an indicator of a lack of professionalism in the police investigation. The witness testified that lawyers were present as he examined Irwanus Uropmabin. He even mentioned the names of various lawyers. However, these lawyers themselves denied having attended the police interrogation. The witness was also not able to recall details about the interrogation of Alexander Gobay. The officer repeatedly avoided questions by telling the lawyer to read the police report.

The trial was repeatedly delayed. The public prosecutor claimed that he had  summoned 15 witnesses to testify in court. However, the witnesses repeatedly did not attend the trial. The public prosecutor mentioned travel restrictions in relation to the Corona Pandemic in Indonesia for the absence of witnesses. Lawyer Gustaf Kawer suggested to the panel of judges to move the trial to Papua, also to reduce the risk of Corona transmissions, as witnesses, the public prosecutor and the lawyers frequently need to travel through airports like Jakarta, where the number of Corona cases has tremendously increased in late March. The trial will continue at the Balikpapan District Court on 30 March 2020.

Update on trial against six pro-Papua activists in Jakarta
The trial against the political pro-Papua activists Surya Anta, Charles Kossay, Isay Wenda, Arina Lokbere and Ambrosius Mulait at the Central Jakarta District Court is still ongoing. There was no significant progress in this trial throughout March as the court hearings were repeatedly postponed. The lawyers twice demanded that the trial should be postponed due to the increasing number of Corona infections in Jakarta to protect the health of defendants, lawyers, prosecutors, and judges. The judges ruled that the trial will continue as scheduled, referring to an official announcement letter by the supreme court which stated that all law enforcement process shall continue despite the Corona pandemic.

Update on trial against nine defendants in relation to September Riots in Wamena
Multiple trails against protesters during the riots in Wamena on 23 September 2019 have been launched. In total, the police detained 23 persons in relation to the unrest.  Five detainees, namely Peben Yikwa, Ruben Esema, Kenius Weya, Anderson Mondalekma Uaga and Yagarsom Asso were released from custody. Yagarsom Asso was allegedly tortured during police custody. Officers brought him to the forest and reportedly shot him four times in the left leg, and five times in the right leg. Pacenus Hiluka was found guilty of violating article 2 on possesion or use of slashing, stabbing or thrusting weapons of Emergency Law No 12/1951. He was sentenced to four months imprisonment.

Only eleven defendants stand trial at the Jayawijaya District Court in Wamena. The majority of these trials have been launched, while six other defendants, namely Yohanes Payage, Lucky Elopere, Konius Doga, Samuel Kurisi, Manu Marlon Alya, and Sonny Yando, continue to wait for the beginnning of their trials. They will be tried at the district court in Biak. The public prosecution and the district court in Wamena had requested to conduct some of the trials in a different location due to security concerns.

The defendants’ indictments slightly vary. The majority of the defendants were charged with article 187 (1) KUHP on deliberate arson and article 170 (1) KUHP on collective violence against persons or objects. Two of them were charged with article 160 KUHP on incitement. The indictment of Narius Wenda differs from those of the other defendants. In the 1st indictment, he was charged with article 338 KUHP on homicide, in the 2nd indictment with article 351 (3) KUHP on violence against a person causing death and in the 3rd indictment with article 340 KUHP on premeditated murder.  

Update on trials in relation to Exodus student riot in Waena on 23 September 2019
Four trials against twelve defendants in relation to the clashes between Papuan students and joint security forces on 23 September 2019 in Waena continue to be held at the Jayapura District Court. One of the defendants named Assa Asso has been charged with article 106 KUHP on treason, article 110 KUHP on criminal conspiracy, article 160 KUHP on incitement and other articles. The defendant Abraham Dote was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment. There have not been any significant developments in the other trials throughout March 2020.

Update on trial against nine anti-racism protesters in Waghete, Deiyai Regency
On 6 March 2020, judges found the defendants Steven Pigai, Mikael Bukega and Yos Iyai guilty of incitement and sentenced them to five months 22 days imprisonment, equal to the period of detention. They had already been provisionally released prior to the verdict. The six defendants Simon Petrus Ukago, Melianus Mote, Stefanus Goo, Andreas Douw, Alex Pakage and Yuven Pekei were also found guilty, mostly for violation of the Emergency Law No 12/1951, article 2 on illegal possession or use of stabbing and slashing weapons. They were sentenced to six months and 20 day imprisonment and released on 25 March 2020.

Trials against 14 defendants in relation to anti-racism protests in Manokwari
Three other Papuan activists named Erik Aliknoe, Yunus Aliknoe and Pende Mirin, continue to stand trial at the district court in Manokwari. They were arrested for making orations during the anti-racism demonstration in Manokwari on 3 September 2019. The public prosecutor charged them with article 106 KUHP on treason, article 110 KUHP on criminal conspiracy and article 160 KUHP on incitement. The  trial was launched on 6 February 2020 and is still ongoing. The female activist, Sayang Mandabayan, was arbitraily arrested on 2 September 2019 at Rendani Airport Manokwari after she returned from the city of Sorong carrying 1,500 small Morning Star flags. She was subsequently charged with article 106 KUHP on treason. The trial against her began on 13 February 2020. In both trials, the panel of judges rejected the defense pleas and continued with the examination of witnesses.
The judges scheduled the examination of 16 witnesses and 3 expert witnesses in relation to the trial against Erik Aliknoe, Yunus Aliknoe and Pende Mirin. Four of the witnesses have been already examined. According to the lawyers, none of the witnesses could confirm the defendant’s involvement in acts of treason or criminal conspiracy. Various witnesses repeatedly did not appear at court. The trial will continue on 2 April 2020. In the trial against Sayang Mandabayan, the public prosecutor had summoned 16 witnesses to testify at court. However, only one witness attended the hearing, so court sessions were twice postponed. Both trials are still ongoing.

According to information received from local human rights organisation LP3BH Manokwari, nine other protesters were arrested for alleged participation in acts of vandalism and arson in Manokwari during riots on 19 August 2019. Their criminal charges vary.

Trial against four politcal activists in Sorong launched
In early March 2020, a trial against the four activists Yoseph Laurens Syufi, Ethus Paulus Miwak Kareth, Manase Baho and Herman Sabo was launched at the Sorong District Court. They have been charged with articles 110 (1) KUHP on criminal conspiracy in conjunction with articles 87 KUHP & 106 KUHP, both referring to treason, as well as article 14 on dissemination of false news or notifications of Law 14/1946 about Criminal Law Regulations. The four activists were arrested for waving the Morning Star flag as well as carrying banners and other attributes with the Morning Star during a peaceful demonstration in Sorong on 17 and 18 September 2019. The court sessions were twice postponed after the judges rejected the defense plea. The delays occurred because the witnesses summoned by the public prosecutors did not appear in court. During the court hearing on 12 March 2020, the defendants’ relatives protested loudly against the repeated delays in the trials and demanded the release of the four activists if the public prosecutor failed again to present witnesses in court. The trial continued with the examination of witnesses and is still ongoing.

Six defendants awaiting trial in relation to anti-racism demonstration in Oksibil, Pegunungan Bintang Regency
The six defendants, named Yonus Deal, Keus Balyo, Herman Tonabial, Carlos Asemki, Yosmin Uyala and Yuli Malyo, were arrested in relation to the arson of a local market in Oksibil, Pegunungan Bintang Regency, on 27 September 2019. The police officers accused five of the defendants of being associated with the political pro-independence movement West Papua National Committee (KNPB). This strongly indicates that the prosecutions were part of a the Indonesia-wide ‘criminalisation campaign’ against Papuan political activists. Similar as in other law enforcement process against political activists, the location of the trial was changed. The six defendants will stand trial in Biak.

Update on other law enforcement processes in relation to anti-racism demonstration in August 2019
Three defendants named Paskalis Tuturot, Rudi Relis and Jhon Erik Asem are still being detained in Fakfak waiting for their trial to begin. According to information provided by lawyers, they are detained at the Fakfak district police station. They were arrested in multiple locations ten days after outbreaks of ethnic violence and riots in Fakfak on 21 August 2019. A local market was burnt to the ground during the unrest. All defendants are accused of deliberate arson under article 187 KUHP. Two of them have additionally been charged with article 160 KUHP on incitement.

In the town of Timika, three protesters named Terianus Madlama, Riko Wariensi and Nius Wenda were arrested in relation to the anti-racism demonstration and subsequent riots on 21 August 2019. Riko Wariensi was found guilty of violating article 170 KUHP on collective violence against persons or objects, while Nius Wenda was found guilty of possession or use of slashing, stabbing or thrusting weapons as stipulated under article 2 of Emergency Law No. 12/1951. Both defendants were sentenced to seven months imprisonment. Similar as in Jayapura, the sentences of Riko Wariensi and Nius Wenda were the same although their indictments strongly differed. According to information received, the trial against Terianus Medlama is still ongoing at the District Court in Timika. He was charged with article 363 KUHP on theft and article 170 KUHP on collective violence against persons or objects.