by West Papua Media, with Oktovianus Pogau at SuaraPapua.com
April 18, 2013
Six West Papua National Committee (KNPB) activists from Timika were each sentenced to one year in prison on Tuesday by judges from the Assembly District Court in a trial deemed as opaque and farcical by observers. Sentenced on charges of carrying dangerous weapons and makar (treason/subversion), defence lawyers insisted that the six non-violent activists had no case proven against them and will immediately be lodging an appeal.
The six, Romario Yatipai, Steven Itlay, Yakonias Womsiwor, Paulus Marsyom, Alfred Marsyom and Yanto Awerkion, were arrested on October 24, 2012, amidst a spate of high publicity arrests of KNPB activists by the Australian-funded counter-terror unit Detachment 88. The then-incoming Papua Police Chief, former Detachment 88 chief Tito Karnavian, exploited the brutal arrests to increase justification for use of Detachment 88 against political activists at a time when OTK (unknown persons, now known as Orang Terlatih Khusus or Specially Trained Persons) killings were spiralling out of control across Papua.
Despite Jakarta pinning the blame for the killings on non-violent activists from the
KNPB, no credible evidence had been able to prove KNPB responsibility despite highly politicised and farcical trial processes. Most independent observers have linked responsibility for OTK incidents in Papua squarely in the hands of agents of the Indonesian special forces.
In SMS and email communications to West Papua Media from the prison before and after the trial, KNPB activist and detainee spokesman Romario Yatipai said that the assertions made by police were “Simply lies”.
“Indonesian police say that KNPB activist are criminals, terrorists, Makar (treason), separatist and so on,” Yatipai explained.
“Actually, KNPB activists in Timika always make peaceful demonstrations with all West Papuans. We always make peaceful demonstrations to demand Referendum, as the best solution for West Papua,” he said.
Central to the police case was that the accused were allegedly carrying explosives to be used against Indonesian police posts and military targets, yet no evidence was furnished that could prove that the accused possessed explosives before t
Despite the Australian Federal Police providing Detachment 88 with state-of-the-art explosives and ballistic forensic testing capability to secure counter-terror convictions, none of this equipment or personnel were deployed in Papua for any of the OTK trials, and no forensic proof was available at the Timika 6 trials that could have linked any of the defendants to use of explosives.
The trial heard wild accusations from prosecutors and police, but defence lawyers led by Gustaf Kawer, objected and expressed surprise when Yanto Awerkion (19) was sentenced.
As to who had ownership of explosives, Kawer explained to Suara Papua, none of the witnesses saw the defendant carrying explosives, but officials forced the defendant to claim possession of explosives.
“Since the moment of the defendant’s arrest along with five colleagues, there were absolutely no explosives he possessed … Yet when he reached the Mimika police station, the officers brought explosives and used it as evidence, and compelled the accused to confess having an explosive. It’s very strange,” Kawer told Suara Papua. “Our legal counsel will conduct a plea on April 23, 2013. The sixth defendant must be released immediately because of not proven guilty, ”
Kawer also objected to the sentencing of the other defendants under makar provisions, saying the judges decision “did not correlate with the examination of the facts.”
“For the first case, it’s not proven that the five defendants were in the possession of sharp weapons. And concerning the treason related article, also during the course of investigation (there was) not any reference to it, but nevertheless the judge decided one year in prison by saying treason that was proven – so we will appeal, ” Kawer told suarapapua. com.
After the defendants returned to the prison cells that have been their home since October 2012, they made a video appeal on their mobile phones, calling on the international community to do more to ensure that Indonesia ceases its persecution of peaceful political activists.
“We hope (the) International community, Amnesty International, IPWP, ILWP support us and pressure Indonesia government, Indonesia Police in Papua and Timika,” Yatipai told West Papua Media. “West Papua activists, and all West Papuans need UN Observers, UN Humanitarian workers, and International Journalists now in Papua.”
“Please support us with prayer and monitoring for us” said Yatipai.