12 KNPB Activists in Merauke provisionally released from police detention

The Merauke police provisionally released 12 activists of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) on 2 April 2021 (see photo, source: KNPB Merauke). According to multiple media sources, the local police claimed that the suspects were released to celebrate Easter with their families. Lawyers argued that the statement was just a pretext to distract the public from the remaining period of detention, which will expire on 12 April 2021 if the police do not come up with sufficient evidence for further processing of the case. They also demanded the police to issue a letter confirming that the police will not continue the criminal investigation (Bhs Indonesia: Surat Penetapan Penghentian Penyidikan or SP3) in the case once the detention period has expired.

Background
On 13 December 2020, police members allegedly destroyed parts of the KNPB office facilities in Merauke and arrested 13 KNPB members and a resident inside the office. The police officers reportedly arrested the activists without showing a warrant. All 14 activists were allegedly beaten with wooden sticks during the arrest and detention at the police station. The resident was released on 17 December 2020, while the police pressed treason and conspiracy charges against the 13 activists.

On 13 December 2020, the activists filed a pre-trial challenging the legality of their arrest. Their lawyers argue that the detention was illegal because police officers violated the Indonesian Criminal Procedure Code (KUHAP). In late January 2021, the judge ruled that the Merauke Police Chief and his men had acted following criminal procedures as stipulated in the Indonesian Criminal Procedure Code (KUHAP).

Kristian Yandum, one of 13 detainees, passed away during police detention on 27 February 2021. The news about his death came only three weeks after his lawyers had expressed concerns regarding police officers’ negligent behaviour. Lawyers say that the Merauke Police didn’t process Kristian Yandum’s request for medical attention during detention at the Merauke District Police Headquarters for almost one month.