Fifth Update on trials and detentions after anti-racism riots in West Papua

This article provides an overview on trials related to Papua-wide anti-racism protests between late August and late September 2019 as well as the subsequent wave of criminalisation against human rights defenders and political activists. The International Coalition for Papua summarised earlier stages of the legal proceedings and detentions in previous articles (first update, second update, third update, fourth update). The following article covers recent developments in relation to the riots throughout February 2020.

Update on trials in relation to Jayapura riots
Multiple trials in relation to the anti-racism riots in Jayapura on 29 August 2019 have taken place simultaneously at the Jayapura District Court. Most of the trials ended with imprisonment sentences for the defendants. All trial processes indicated a lack of transparency, impartiality and fairness. On the one hand, Papuan defendants who were accused for vandalism or theft were found guilty, although many of the them were forced to sign false confessions during police detention. Moreover, the public prosecutor did neither present evidence nor witnesses proving the defendant’s involvement in any criminal act. On the other hand, the imprisonment sentences for four non-Papuan perpetrators who had killed a Papuan bystander in a mob attack were disproportionately mild.

On 24 February 2020, the 14 defendants, Pandra Wenda, Yoda Tabuni, Dorti Kawena, Yali Loho, Ronald Wandik, Jonny Weya, Persiapan Kogoya, Mika Asso, Yusuf Moai, Ello Hubi, Revinus Tambonop, Ari Asso, Ferius Entama, and Agustinus L Mohi, were sentenced to six months imprisonment. The lawyers criticised the verdicts, arguing that evidence appeared not be genuine and examination of witnesses indicated that several defendants had allegedly engaged in vandalism in different places at the same time.     All defendants received the same sentences although their indictments varied. They will be released by the end of the February, as the sentence will be reduced by the period of detention.

On 20 February 2020, six other defendants named Yan Peter Suramaja, Dolfin, Vinsen Dogopia, Jorgen Aipui, Valerio Yaas and Peter Meraudje were also sentenced to six months imprisonment although the defendants’ indictments strongly varied. The lawyers again criticized the verdict as none of the testimonies or evidence indicated the involvement in criminal acts. During the announcement of the verdict, the judges mentioned recordings of security cameras among the incriminating evidence. The lawyers claimed that these recordings were never presented or examined during any of the court hearings.

On 11 February 2020, the three defendants Oktovianus Hisage, Yosam Wenda and Yoda Tabuni were sentenced to six months imprisonment, to be reduced by the period of detention. The judges found them guilty of stealing a computer and a keyboard from Government offices during the riot on 29 August 2019. Again, the police did not find any evidence during arrest and none of the witnesses had seen the defendants stealing the hardware.

Seventeen defendants have appealed against the verdict, claiming that they are inccocent and have not been involved in any criminal acts during the riots.

On 18 February 2020, judges found the defendants Nasrul (also known as Aan) and Irwan guilty of killing a Papuan bystander named Evertin Mofu during the outbreak of ethnic violence on 30 August 2019. Facts during the trial had proven that Nasrul and Irwan had carry sharp weapons in an attempt to attack other citizens. The panel of judges sentenced both men to three years imprisonment. Previously, the public prosecutor had demanded a sentence of five years imprisonment.  The sentence for both perpetrators is disproportionately mild, considering the maximum punishment in the indictment. Both defendants were charged with article 338 KUHP on homicide and article 170 (2) on mob violence with fatal consequences, with a maximum penalty of 15 years and 12 years, respectively. Evertin Mofo’s relatives expressed disappointment about the verdicts. In late December 2019, two other perpetrators – both of them still minors – had been sentenced to 11 months imprisonment for the involvement in this killing.

Update on situation of seven Papuan political detainees in Kalimantan
The trial against seven Papuan political activists Fery Kombo, Alexander Gobay, Hengki Hilapok, Buchtar Tabuni, Irwanus Uropmabin, Stevanus Itlay and Agus Kossay was launched at the Balikpapan District court on 11 February 2020. The indictments of the defendants vary:

•    The public prosecutor charged Alexander Gobai in the first indictment with article 110 (1) of the Indonesian Criminal Code (KUHP) in conjunction with article 106 KUHP in conjunction with article 55 (1) 1 KUHP. In the second indictment, he was charged with article 106 KUHP in conjunction with article 55 (1) 1 KUHP. Article 106 KUHP refers the crime of treason, article 110 KUHP regulates the crime of criminal conspiracy, while article 55 elaborates the type of engagement in the crime (giving an order for, participate in or conducting a crime)
•    In the first indictment, the prosecution charged Hengki Hilapok with article 106 KUHP in conjunction with article 55 (1) 1 KUHP; in the second indictment, he was charged with article 110 (1) KUHP in conjunction with article 106 KUHP; in the third indictment he was charged with article 160 KUHP on incitement.
•    The  public prosecutor charged Steven Itlay in the first indictment with article 106 KUHP in conjunction with article 55 (1) 1 KUHP; in the second indictment, he was charged with article 107 (1) KUHP in conjunction with article 55 (1) 1 KUHP; in the third indictment, he was charged with article 107 (2) KUHP in conjunction with article 55 (1) 1 KUHP; in the fourth indictment, he was charged with article 110 (1) KUHP in conjunction with article 55 (1) 1 KUHP. The Article 107 KUHP also refers the crime of treason.
•    In the first indictment, the prosecution charged Agus Kossai with article 106 KUHP in conjunction with article 55 (1) 1 KUHP; in the second indictment, he was charged with article 110 (1); in the third indictment, he was charged with article 110 (2) 1 KUHP and in the fourth indictment, he was charged with article 82A (2) in conjunction with article 59 (3) a & b, (4) of Government regulation No. 13/ 2017 on social organizations in conjunction with article 55 (1) 1 KUHP.
•    The public prosecutor charged Ferry Komobo in the first indictment with article 106 KUHP in conjunction with article 55 (1) 1 KUHP; in the second indictment, he was charged with article 110 (1) KUHP in conjunction with article 106 KUHP in conjunction with article 55 (1) 1; in the third indictment, he was charged with article 160 KUHP in conjunction with article 55 (1) 1 KUHP.
•    In the first indictment, the prosecution charged Buchtar Tabuni with article 106 KUHP I conjunction with article 55 (1) 1 KUHP; in the second indictment, he was charged with article 110 (1) KUHP in conjunction with article 55 (1) 1; in the third indictment, he was charged with article 160 KUHP.
•    The public prosecutor charged Irwanus Uropmabin in the first indictment with article 106 KUHP in conjunction with article 55 (1) 1; in the second indictment, he was charged with article 160 KUHP in conjunction with article 55 1 1 KUHP.

The lawyers presented the defense plea during the court session on 20 February 2020. The lawyers demanded that all defendants should be acquitted and immediately released. A second point which the lawyers stressed in the plea was the non-procedural transfer of the detention facilities and court proceedings from Jayapura to Balikpapan. Moreover, the indictments of Agus Kossay, Buchtar Tabuni and Steven Itlay failed to mention a clear time, place or how the defendants were involved in a criminal offense. Another indication for the lack of the public prosecutor’s precision, was the multiple indictments for each of the defendants, said the lawyers.

Three of the defendants, namely Buchtar Tabuni, Steven Itlay and Alex Gobai, continue to experience health issues during detention. According to media sources, the three defendants had in vain repeatedly requested medical treatment at the public prosecution in Balikpapan. However, the public prosecution in Balikpapan argued that the public prosecutor in Papua is responsible for the seven political detainees. As a result, Buchtar Tabuni, Steven Itlay and Alex Gobai did not get access to sufficient medical treatment, as the public prosecutor was still in West Papua.

Update on trial against six pro-Papua activists in Jakarta
The trial against the political pro-Papua activists Surya Anta, Charles Kossay, Isay Wenda, Arina Lokbere and Ambrosius Mulait at the Central Jakarta District Court is still ongoing (see intro image). There was no significant progress in this trial throughout February as the court hearings were repeatedly postponed. The trial will continue with the examination of further witnesses.

Trial against nine defendants in relation to September Riots in Wamena launched
Meanwhile, multiple trails against protesters during the riots in Wamena on 23 September 2019 have been launched. Only nine out of 17 defendants stand trial at the Jayawijaya District Court in Wamena. These trials have already been launched, while eight other defendants will be tried at the district court in Biak. The public prosecution and the district court in Wamena had requested to conduct some of the trials in a different location due to security concerns.

The ICP was not yet able to confirm the criminal charges and the names of all defendants.

Update on trials in relation to Exodus student riot in Waena on 23 September 2019
Four trials against twelve defendants in relation to the clashes between Papuan students and joint security forces on 23 September 2019 in Waena continue to be held at the Jayapura District Court. In the trial against Abraham Dote, the public prosecutor demanded a sentence of eight months imprisonment. There have not been any significant developments in the other trials throughout February 2020.

Update on trial against nine anti-racism protesters in Waghete, Deiyai Regency
The three trials against nine anti-racism protesters at the Nabire District Court are still ongoing. On 27 February 2020, the panel of judges had scheduled the verdict for the three defendants Stevanus Pigai, Mikael Bukega and Yosias Iyai. They were charged with article 160 KUHP on incitement. However, the court hearing was postponed to 2 March 2020. The three defendants were released provisionally on 19 February 2020 as the public prosecution did not prolong the period of detention. The six other defendants continue to be detained at the penitentiary in Nabire because their indictments differ from those of Stevanus Pigai, Mikael Bukega and Yosias Iyai. They have been charged with articles 1 & 2 of Emergency Law No. 12/1955 on the possession or use of sharp weapons and fire arms and articles 212 & 213 KUHP on assault of state officials carrying out their duty.

The court hearings were repeatedly visited by members of the local parliament. The chairman of the Deiyai Parliamnet, Petrus Badokapa, was also examined as a witness at court. He testified that all defendants were rather victims than perpetrators. They were severely injured by bullets as security force members forcefully dispersed the crowd. The peaceful demonstration escalated into a violent clash after military members had rammed two protesters with a car. Later, the police took nine of the fifty injured protesters into custody, while they were still undergoing medical treatment at the public hospital.