[The following is a translation of a press release issued by the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) following the release of five Papuan political prisoners on May 27.]
Jakarta – After serving nine months in jail, five Papuan political prisoners (tapol), Surya Anta, Ambrosius Mulait, Dano Tabuni, Charles Kossay and Ariana Lokbere were released today.
On April 25 a panel of judges at the Central Jakarta District Court declared that the five Papua tapols were guilty of committing makar (treason, subversion, rebellion) against the state by violating Article 106 of the Criminal Code (KUHP).
The facts revealed during the defense of the tapols at their trial proved that when the incident occurred the five Papuan tapols were simply conveying an opinion in public over racist slurs against Papuan students in the Central Java provincial capital of Surabaya on August 16, 2019.
During the protest action in front of the State Palace in Central Jakarta on August 28, 2019, for which they were arrested and charged, there was no intent to commit makar, there was no action attacking the state, there were no incidents of violence whatsoever, yet the judges’ verdict failed to consider these facts during the trial.
Although we were disappointed with the judges’ ruling in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, after discussions with the tapols, their families and lawyers, it was decided that for the moment they would not pursue an appeal against the sentences. We took into consideration the health and safety of all of the parties involved in assisting and dealing with the case.
Following their release, the five tapols remain committed to articulating the problems in the land of Papua. This is the high price that had to be paid by the tapols for the sake of realising justice for the Papuan people. The five tapols will provide moral support to other Papua tapols who are still facing trial or are currently undergoing legal proceedings at various jails around the country so that they will stay strong in the face of the legal process. They have not committed any crimes and are not criminals.
The criminalisation of Papua activists voicing the problems in Papua by use of the makar articles, the Information and Electronic Transaction Law (UU ITE) and other criminal articles is part and parcel of the retreat of democracy in Indonesia and the commitment to advance human rights.
Following the wave arrests related to protests in August and September last year over the racist incident in Surabaya, there are now 57 Papuan political prisoners spread across seven cities undergoing legal proceedings. For some time a legal approach has been used but it will not be effective in resolving the conflict, problems and rights of the Papuan people.
The government must immediately end all attempts to criminalise pro-democracy activists articulating their views and end its repressive and racially discriminative attitude towards the Papuan people. The government must have the courage to speak face-to-face with Papuan activists in order to understand the wishes of the Papuan people.
The Papuan tapols express their gratitude to all those who have helped and given them with moral support. This will provide a new energy for us to continue the struggle, particularly the struggle for the Papuan people.
We convey this press release for the sake of upholding the law and human rights.
Jakarta, 27 Mei 2020
Papua Advocacy Team
Contact person: Mike Hilman, S.H (082234750572)
[Translated by James Balowski. Some addition text was added to provide background. The original title of the article was “Lima Tapol Papua Bebas”.]