Jayapura – On Tuesday March 3 the Balikpapan District Court rejected a demurer presented by seven Papuan political prisoners (tapol) who are defendants in a treason case currently being tried in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan.
The panel of three judges stated that the Balikpapan District Court has the authority to examine and try the seven defendants and ordered the prosecutor to continue the trial by presenting witnesses and evidence in the case.
The seven Papuan political prisoners being tried by the court are United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) Legislative Division II Deputy Chairperson Buchtar Tabuni, West Papua National Committee (KNPB) Chairperson Agus Kossay, KNPB Mimika Chairperson Steven Itlay and Jayapura Science and Technology University student president Alexander Gobay, along with Feri Bom Kombo, Hengky Hilapok and Irwanus Uropmabin.
The seven were arrested and charged following a series of protest rallies against racism which took place in response to a case of racism against Papuan students in the East Java provincial capital of Surabaya on August 16, 2019.
During a hearing on February 20, the Papua Legal and Human Rights Upholders Coalition which are representing the seven defendants, read out a demurrer which questioned, among other things, the relative authority of the Balikpapan District Court to examine and try the seven defendants
The demurrer also questioned the public prosecutor’s carelessness in drafting the indictment resulting in the charges being unclear. The team of lawyers also questioned the separation of the case dossiers which they said violates the Criminal Procedural Code (KUHAP).
During the hearing on Tuesday March 3, the panel of judges read out seven preliminary rulings rejecting the demurrer, stating that it had no legal basis.
In a press release the team of lawyers declared their disappointment saying that the three judges were careless in examining the public prosecutor’s indictment.
“Because clearly our objections were based on legal stipulations, that the indictment was made based on a legal process that was not in accordance with procedures and was careless, incomplete and unclear, and is therefore invalid”, read the press release by the team of lawyers.
The judge’s preliminary ruling declared that the Balikpapan District Court has the authority to examine and try the seven defendants and that the legal team representing the seven had ignored the principles of integrity, fairness and a sense of public justice as regulated under Article 5 Paragraphs (1) and (2) of Law Number 48/2009 on the Authority of the Judiciary.
The judges’ refusal to link the case against the seven Papuan defendants with the political conflict in Papua and the racist incident which took place in Surabaya last year was deemed as a reflection of their incapacity to delve into, follow or understand living justice in Papuan society.
“The judges’ narrow view in understanding the seven Papuan tapols’ case in the context of the socio-political conflict in Papua along with the injustice of their assessment and ruling makes judicial institutions a futile place to seek justice. This judicial process which discriminates against the Papuan people means that the seven Papuan tapols will not receive justice. This also gives law enforcement a bad image in the eyes of the public”, read the press release.
At the end of Tuesday’s hearing, the panel of judges set the schedule for the next series of hearings which was agreed to by the public prosecutor and the defendants’ lawyers. The hearings will be held on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays starting on March 10.
The public prosecutor declared that they have prepared 14-15 witnesses against the defendants. The lawyers for the defendants responded by stating that they would be preparing defense witnesses for their clients.
“We will also prepare expert witnesses to testify in favour of the defendants”, said advocate Latifah Anum Siregar when contacted in Balikpapan on Wednesday March 4.
[Slightly abridged translation by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “PN Balikpapan tolak eksepsi 7 tapol Papua”.]