Trial of Papuan separatist ends in riot, scores wounded

Kompas – May 11, 2005
West Papuan independence activists Philip Karma and Yusak Pakage (Bemeyomi)

Jayapura – The separatist trial of Philip Karma and Yusak Pakage who are each facing five years jail at the Jayapura State Court on Tuesday May 10 has ended in a riot. As a result of the clash, scores of local people and police officers suffered injuries and some 26 vehicles were damaged.

Demonstrators also blockaded roads on the Jayapura-Abepura-Sentani route for two hours after which police arrested 26 people, 15 of which have been declared as suspects.

Accompanied by the head of the Abepura sectoral police detectives unit Chief-Inspector Juvenalis Takamuli, Abepura police commissioner Muhamad Safei said that the riot started when demonstrators felt dissatisfied with the prosecutor’s demand that the accused be sentenced to five years jail.

Karma is a state civil servant at the office of the Papuan governor while Pakage is a student from the Cenderawasih University. Both are accused of organising a demonstration at the Trikora square in Padang Bulan on December 1, 2004, at which Morning Star Flag was raised for 30 minutes to commemorate West Papua’s independence day.

Yesterday’s court hearing, the ninth, began at 11am and was presided over by Judge Radiantoro. Also present was the public prosecutor Yulius Teuf and the defendant’s defense lawyers led by Paskalis Letsoin.

The defendant’s lawyers was not present when Teuf read out the charges as they were in fact in the midst of the crowd of demonstrators gathered in the grounds of the court house.

After reading the charges, Radiantoro closed the session forthwith and gave an opportunity to defense lawyers to prepare their defense for next week.

As Karma was taken outside to a vehicle to be driven to the Abepura correctional institution, demonstrators protested saying that the charges were invalid because the defendant’s lawyers were not present when they were read.

The 500 or so people who filled the grounds then closed the gates to the courthouse and detained the vehicle carrying the accused. Following negotiations with police demonstrators then reopened the gates.

All of a sudden however, demonstrators ran amok with protesters and police throwing stones at each other. Twenty-six vehicles which were parked in the grounds of the courthouse and in front of the Abepura shopping centre were damaged – including a police patrol car, the car owned by the prosecutor, cars owned by police officers, the judge and local people. A number of the vehicles were seriously damaged.

The incident resulted in 10 Abepura sectoral police officers, a member of the Jayapura municipal police and scores of demonstrators being injured after being struck by rocks – including Safei and a journalist from the Jayapura daily the Kasniel Post.

Most of injuries sustained by police and demonstrators were to the head, temple, chin, legs, arms and back. Police did not shoot any of the demonstrators because most of the police safeguarding the trial were not carrying firearms, only truncheons.

Intelligence officers from the sectoral and municipal police did however fire warning shots into the air on three occasions in order disperse demonstrators. But this only made the demonstrators more angry who then spread out onto the main road, circling the court offices looking for police officers seeking safety while throwing rocks the size of a adult person’s fist in the direction of security forces. Although the front windows of the court house were smashed after being hit by stones the inside of the courthouse remained safe as it was tightly guarded by security forces.

Demonstrators also blockaded a number of roads including the route connecting Jayapura-Abepura and Sentani, the road in front of the courthouse and the road in front of the Cenderawasih University campus. Traffic was brought to a standstill.

Demonstrators then demanded that the 26 people who had been detained by police be released. Negotiations then took place between the head of the Jayapura metropolitan police Chief Commissioner Moch Son Ani. After being questioned 15 of the suspects were released. (KOR)

[Translated by James Balowski.]