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

  • Print

This article provides an overview of 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, sixth update). The following article covers recent developments in relation to the riots throughout April 2020.

Update on the situation of seven Papuan political detainees in Kalimantan
The trial against the seven defendants Fery Kombo, Alexander Gobay, Hengki Hilapok, Buchtar Tabuni, Irwanus Uropmabin, Stevanus Itlay and Agus Kossay at the Balikpapan District Court is still ongoing. The trial was temporarily interrupted due to the growing number of Corona infections in Indonesia and re-launched on 13 April 2020. The judges decided that the trial process should continue through teleconference sessions. An online court session on 20 April 2020 was stopped because of technical difficulties and rescheduled on 22 April 2020 with the examination of witnesses and experts.

The lawyers raised concerns that the teleconference format limits their possibilities of intervention at court. The assessment followed the court session on 22 April, in which the panel of judges reportedly allowed the public prosecutor to examine the witnesses and defendants longer than the lawyers. The judges prevented a member of the lawyer team to participate in the examination of the witnesses, arguing that the lawyers should coordinate the examination among themselves. However, the team members were located in two different cities, making it impossible during the online session to discuss within the team. Moreover, the lawyers criticized that a language expert from the Gajah Mada University in Yogyakarta made multiple assessments that were not related to his field of expertise when he was examined at court.

Update on trial against six pro-Papua activists in Jakarta  
On 24 April 2020, the panel of judges found the six defendants guilty of committing treason and criminal conspiracy. Paulus Suryanta Ginting, Dano Tabuni (see into image), Charles Kossay, Arina Lokbere and Ambrosius Mulait were sentenced to nine months, Isay Wenda to eight months imprisonment. The sentences are to be reduced by the period of detention. The public prosecutor had demanded a sentence of 1 year and five months for the defendants, except Isay Wenda for whom the prosecutors sought a sentence of 10 months. The defendants have the right to appeal against the verdict. Isay Wenda will have served his sentence on 2 May 2020. The other five activists will have to stay one more month in prison.   

International human rights organisations denounced the verdict. Amnesty International and TAPOL consider the six defendants as “prisoners of conscience” who were unlawfully arrested and prosecuted for peacefully expressing their opinion in public. The participation in a peaceful protest and the waving of flags are part of the freedom of expression and assembly, both guaranteed under international law. TAPOL expressed particular concern that five of the political prisoners still have to serve over one month in prison when the Covid-19 pandemic will likely reach its peak in Indonesia. TAPOL urged the Government to release all political prisoners to prevent a quick spreading of the Corona Virus in Indonesia’s overcrowded detention facilities.

Previously, the lawyers had demanded to temporarily stop the trial and release the six political detainees. However, the judges ruled that the trial shall proceed through teleconferences. The first online court session was held on 13 April 2020.

Update on trial against defendants in relation to September Riots in Wamena
Multiple trials at the Jayawijaya District court in Wamena are still ongoing. The ICP did not receive any information regarding the current status of trials that had been transferred to the jurisdiction of the district court in the Biak-Numfor Regency. The trials in Wamena proceeded as usual despite the social distancing policy promoted by the central and provincial Governments. The panel of judges rejected the lawyer’s requests to postpone the trial due to the Corona pandemic.

One of the defendants named Eliezer Siep was found guilty for violation of article 170 of the Indonesian Criminal Code (KUHP) on collective violence against persons or objects and sentenced to eight months imprisonment. The public prosecutor had sought a sentence of one year for Eliezer Siep. The trials against Ricky Wanimbo and Pilatus Pahabol were repeatedly postponed. Other trials in Wamena are still ongoing.

Update on trials in relation to Exodus student riot in Waena on 23 September 2019
Some of the trials in relation to the Exodus student riots in Waena on 23 September 2019 are still ongoing at the Jayapura District Court. Meanwhile, the four defendants Biko Kogoya, Tenak Waker, Pailes Yiggibalom, Bendira Tabuni and Alpon Meku have served their sentences. They were released on 6 April 2020.

Update on trials against three Papuan activists in Manokwari
The trial against Erik Aliknoe, Yunus Aliknoe and Pende Mirin at the district court in Manokwari has continued with the examination of further witnesses. The three activists have been charged with treason for organising a peaceful demonstration against racism in Manokwari. All court sessions throughout April 2020 were repeatedly postponed because witnesses summoned by the public prosecutor did not appear at court. The trial against Sayang Mandabayan was also repeatedly postponed because the judge was unable to attend the trial for various reasons. There were no significant developments in both trials. Judges have planned to continue the trials in online conferences due to the fast spread of the Corona Virus in various parts of West Papua.

Update on trial against four political activists in Sorong
There were no significant developments in the trial against the four activists Yoseph Laurens Syufi, Ethus Paulus Miwak Kareth, Manase Baho and Herman Sabo. The trial at the district court in Sorong is proceeding. The activists had organised a peaceful demonstration in Sorong on 17 and 18 September 2019. The protesters had waved morning star flags during the demonstration. During the court hearing on 16 April 2020, the four defendants stated that they had organised the demonstration to protest against acts of racism without having any political agenda. They also testified that they did not know who brought the Morning Star Flags and similar attributes to the demonstration. The activists had registered the demonstration to the local police office as required by law.