Trial against 11 political activists in Sorong – Prosecutor demands 16 months for alleged treason

The eleven political activists, Daniel Jitmau, Paulus Syama, Lukas Nauw, Simon Aifat, Berto Tomow, Frengky Nauw, Lukas Smass, Marlinda Mangko, Silvester Nauw, Wilson Kofias and Jhosua Kingho, are standing trial in the Sorong District Court since 16 July 2020. The Papuan activists were charged with Article 106 of the Indonesian Penal Code (KUHP) on treason and Article 110 KUHP on criminal conspiracy because they organised a peaceful protest for the commemoration of 1st December, which many indigenous Papuans regard as the ‘Papuan Independence Day’. The public prosecutor demanded a sentence of one year and four months for the defendants. According to the prosecutor, the activists had been proven guilty of committing treasonous acts by organising a public event through which they allegedly support the establishment of the separate state ‘West Papua New Guinea’.

The legal aid organisation ‘LBH Kaki Abu’ is representing the eleven activists in court. The LBH lawyer, Fernando Ginuny, stated in an interview with the media outlet Jubi that he will plea for the defendants’ acquittal. He criticised that all defendants had been interrogated by police officers without access to a lawyer. The next court session was scheduled on 24 August 2020.

The activists were arrested on 27 November 2019, as they were transporting banners, flags and stickers with the Morning Star symbol for the peaceful commemoration in a pick-up truck. The Morning Star flag is a symbol of cultural identity which is also used as an emblem by the Papuan independence movement. It was officially raised for the first time under the Dutch colonial government on 1 December 1961.

Political activists in and outside of West Papua continue to be prosecuted under charges of treason and criminal conspiracy for the possession or the raising of the Morning Star flag. While the number of prosecutions under articles 110 KUHP and 106 KUHP slowly decreased between 2016 and 2018, the year 2019 marks a new record high in such prosecutions with a total of 56 cases. This is the highest number of such prosecutions in one year since 2012. Previously, the political prosecution under charges of treason and criminal conspiracy reached its peak in 2013, with 31 cases.