Monitoring of the trial of Forkorus and colleagues

This briefly covers the monitoring of four of the most recent hearings of the trial of Forkorus Yaboisembet and his four colleagues who are facing the charge of subversion – makar – in relation to their attendance at the Papuan Peace Conference 16 – 19 October and the subsequent declaration by Forkorus of the establishment of the Federal Republic of West Papua.Monday 6 February 2012

At this hearing when the defendant’s demurrer was submitted, security forces were out in force along the roads leading to the courthouse and related offices. Armed troops from the police, Brimob and the army were present alongside the courthouse.

The identities of all those wishing to enter the court were checked
Solidarity groups held a demonstration with banners declaring support for the Federal Republic of West Papua and waving the Morning Star flag.

Friday, February 10.

Guarding by the security forces from the police and the army continued to be heavy, while all those wishing to attend had their identities checked. Many of those who turned up had to remain outside because the court was already full.

The army and Brimob in nine Brimob trucks were present causing the atmosphere to be very tense.   Army troops bearing weapons set up their own tents  on both sides of the  courthouse while a Brimob unit was stationed on the right of the courthouse. Members of PETAPA (a solidarity group)were also present.

Hearing on Friday 17 February.

Witnesses for the prosecution were expected to give testimony but none of them appeared, as a result of which the prosecutor only presented material evidence.

The hearing was due to commence at 9am but was delayed because one of the defendants, Dominkus Sorabut, was unwell and was taken to hospital by members of the legal team. His condition was said to be not very serious and he was provided with medication. In the afternoon, the defendants returned to the court and the hearing to hear witnesses for the  prosecution was resumed; however, again the witnesses did not appear while 64 items of material evidence were produced and read out at great length by the prosecutor.

Gustaf Kawer, a lawyer for the defendants, objected  to the presentation of material evidence as this was intended to be a hearing to hear witnesses, but the panel of judges nevertheless decided to proceed. The hearing grew tense when Forkorus and his colleagues protested, saying that there was no need for the hearing to continue.

The area outside the courthourse was again packed with members of the security forces.

Hearing on 21 February

Guarding by security forces was even heavier all round the courthouse The reason for the high presence of police officers was that most of the witnesses due to appear were members of the police force. Some of the police were in uniform while others were in plain clothes. Inside the court, the witnesses who testified said either that they knew nothing about the declaration that had been read out by Forkorus or said that they could not remember. They also told the court that they did not know any of the defendants.

One of the witnesses was Alfons Rumbekwan, the secretary of the Majelis Rakyat Papua, but defence lawyer Gustaf Kawar objected to this witness giving testimony because he was an indigenous Papuan and also because of his membership of the Majelis Rakyat Papua.

This hearing was also held to  hear testimony from ordinary Papuans. Five of these witnesses were expected to appear but only one of them appeared. This was Elieser Awom, a 67-year-old Papuan and former political prisoner. He gave evidence regarding the Papuan Peace conference and spoke about the  attack on participants at the conference and the killing of several of the participants. Elieser Awom had himself been arrested and said that he had been tortured by police officers.

Before the hearing concluded Forkorus protested against the prosecutor and the judges, accusing them of using various pretexts  [against the defendants].

On this occasion also, the prosecutor announced that following the hearing on 21 February, they had reported a number of the police officers present at the hearing because of unacceptable behaviour. This announcement was met with disbelief by the defence team because that session had proceeded quite smoothly.

After the members of the defence team returned home, they were told that there were reports that they were likely to be summoned by  the police in order to face charges. If this were to happen, it would been seen as part of a strategy by the prosecutor and the judges to exert pressure on the defence lawyers ahead of the final verdict by the judges.

Meanwhile, at a press conference held by the defendants, they said that they rejected all the statements made by witnesses at the hearing on 21 February as well as at the subsequent hearing.

The next hearing is scheduled to take place on 24 February.

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