Ninth update on trials and detentions after anti-racism riots in West Papua

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This article provides an overview of the 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, fifth update, sixth update, seventh update, eight update. The following text covers the developments throughout June 2020 concerning the riots.

The seven Papuan activists tried in Kalimantan were sentenced to ten and eleven months imprisonment. International human rights observers, as well as Papuan civil society members, raised serious concerns regarding the trial after the public prosecutor had sought sentences of up to 17 years imprisonment for the defendants. Meanwhile, the majority of trials concerning the anti-racism protests have been closed and the defendants were released. Several court cases against protesters who were during unrests in the towns of Oksibil, Wamena, Sorong and Waena continue.

Update on trial against seven Papuan political detainees in Kalimantan
On 17 June 2020, judges at the Balikpapan District Court sentenced Buchtar Tabuni, Agus Kossay and Stevanus Itlay to eleven months imprisonment. Ferry Gombo, Alexander Gobay, Hengky Hilapok and Irwanus Uropmabin were sentenced to ten months imprisonment (see intro image). Many stakeholders in and outside of West Papua have been expectantly waiting for this verdict after the public prosecutor sought particular long sentences for the defendants. On 5 June 2020, the public prosecutor had demanded imprisonment sentences of 15 years for Steven Itlay and Agus Kossay, ten years for Alexander Gobay and Fery Kombo and five years for Hengki Hilapok.

The sentence was much higher than in other trials against political activists who had been charged with provisions of treason and criminal conspiracy after participating in protests against racism in August and September 2019. A large variety of stakeholders – among them the Papuan Provincial Parliament (DPRP), the Papuan Peoples Council (MRP), intellectuals, Catholic priests and other religious leaders in West Papua, human rights organisations and students – demanded the unconditional release of the 'Balikpapan 7' via public statements and other peaceful measures of support. They feared that high penalties against the political activists could trigger widespread riots and acts of vandalism in West Papua.

Update on trial against protesters in Wamena
In total, 17 protesters in Wamena faced trial after being arrested. While the majority of trials have been closed, six defendants – namely, Randis Lokbere, Yohanes Payage, Samuel Kurisi, Luky Elopere, Manu Marlon Alua and Konius Doga - continue to be tried at the district court in Biak. Judges of the Biak District Court sentenced Sonni Yando to 3 years imprisonment on 29 June 2020. He was found guilty of being involved in deliberate arson, causing fatalities as defined under Article 187 KUHP. The sentences against the other ten protesters ranged from four months up to six years. Some verdicts are currently being reviewed by the high court and the supreme court.

Update on trial against six protesters in Oksibil, Pegunungan Bintang Regency
The trial against Keus Balyo, Yenus Deal, Hermanto Nabyal, Carlos Asemki, Yosmin Duyala and Yoni Malyo is still ongoing at the Jayawijaya District Court in Wamena. The trial will proceed with the examination of the defendants on 29 June. They have been charged with multiple Indictments (1. Indictment: Article 187 KUHP on deliberate arson, 2. Indictment: Article 160 KUHP on incitement, 3. Indictment: Article 170 KUHP on collective violence against persons or objects).

Update on trial against four anti-racism protesters in Sorong
While the treason defendants Yoseph Laurens Syufi, Paulus Miwak Kareth, Manase Baho and Herman Sabo were released on 31 May 2020, four other anti-racism protesters continue to stand trial at the district court in Sorong. Marius Asso was charged with Article 187 (1) KUHP on Arson, Article 160 KUHP on Incitement and Article 170 KUHP on collective violence against persons or objects. The Public Prosecutor demanded a sentence of twelve months imprisonment. The Verdict was scheduled for 29 June 2020.

The trial against the defendants Opianus Meage, Hermina Elopere, Septinus Malaseme was completed in late June 2020. On 25 June 2020 judges found the defendants guilty and sentenced them to ten months imprisonment. The three protesters had been charged with Article 187 (1) KUHP on Arson and Article 170 KUHP on collective violence against persons or objects. The public prosecutor had demanded a sentence of twelve months imprisonment.

Update on trials about Exodus student riot in Waena on 23 September 2019
The treason trial against photographer and filmmaker Assa Asso at the Jayapura District Court continues. On 24 June 2020, the public prosecutor argued that the evidence and facts during the trial had proven that Assa Asso committed an act of treason as defined under article 106 KUHP. He sought a sentence of one year for Assa Asso. The trial will continue with the lawyers defence plea on 1 July 2020. He had shared a video about the riot on 28 August in Jayapura on his Facebook account and took pictures during the student protest in Waena on 23 September 2020.

Update on detention of three political activists in Manokwari
The three political prisoners Erik Aliknoe, Yunus Aliknoe and Pende Mirin, who had been sentenced to ten months imprisonment on 4 June have been released from detention. Erik Aliknoe and Pende Mirin were released from the Manokwari state penitentiary on 16 June 2020. Yunus Aliknoe was released one day later in 17 June 2020.

In total 17 protesters and activists were tried in relation to the anti-racism protests in Manokwari. Their sentences varied between one month to twelve months imprisonment. Four of them were charged with treason. Two defendants named Yusup Wairara and Jafar Marife – both sentenced to twelve months imprisonment – continue to serve their sentences. All others have been released from detention.