Papuans Behind Bars is a new project about political prisoners in West Papua. Our aim is to provide accurate and transparent data, published in English and Indonesian, to facilitate direct support for prisoners and promote wider debate and campaigning in support of free expression in West Papua.
Papuans Behind Bars is a collective project initiated by Papuan civil society groups working together as the Civil Society Coalition to Uphold Law and Human Rights in Papua. It is a grassroots initiative and represents a broad collaboration between lawyers, human rights groups, adat groups, activists, journalists and individuals in West Papua, as well as Jakarta-based NGOs and international solidarity groups.
The project holds records of over 200 current and former political prisoners, and the website –www.papuansbehindbars.org – will go live later this month. We will publish monthly Updates, providing alerts on political arrests and a round-up of latest developments affecting Papuan political prisoners. The March Update is the third in the series.
Questions, comments and corrections are welcomed, and you can write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
At the end of March 2013 there were at least 40 political prisoners in Papuan jails. Throughout March there was an increase in the number of reported arbitrary arrests, detention, alleged torture and harassment of civilians in West Papua. There were more political arrests in Sarmi, Manokwari and Paniai.
Jon Nuntian of the TPN camp case, arrested in May 2012 and charged with treason, was released in March. Two teenagers arbitrarily arrested in Paniai last month and accused of being TPN/OPM members have also been released. The Biak explosives and Timika treason and explosives trials continued, and a report by a local human rights activist sheds new light on the Wamena explosives case. The trial of Deny Hisage and five other KNPB activists began at the end of the month.
Four alleged TPN/OPM members arrested in Sarmi
On 3 March 2012, four men were arrested at Yamna village in Sarmi district by four members of an army task force at about 10:30 for their alleged involvement with the National Liberation Army/Free Papua Movement (Tentara Pembebasan Nasional, TPN / Organisasi Papua Merdeka, OPM). They were brought to Pantai Timur Police Station before being transferred to Sarmi Police Station and have been identified as Isak Demetouw (alias Alex Makabori) and Daniel Norotouw from Jayapura, and Niko Sasomar and Sileman Teno from Sarmi.
According to an army commander, the task force received information from a resident of Nengke village in Sarmi district about four armed TPN/OPM members on motorcycles headed in the direction of Jayapura. Upon their arrest they were allegedly found with TPN/OPM documents dated 26 February 2013, a TPN/OPM member card, an M9 bayonet, Morning Star symbols, a photo of Niko Sasomar carrying an M16, a backpack containing IDR 20 million, three mobile phones and two bottles of medicine.
The police stated that the four men were guilty of conspiracy to commit violence in Sarmi and Jayapura districts. They were charged with Article 110 of the Criminal Code and Article 2 of the Emergency Law 12/1951 for conspiracy and possession of a sharp weapon, carrying a minimum 20 year prison sentence and a maximum life sentence.
Although the men have yet to be tried, since the Puncak Jaya shootings there have been a number of reports of civilians being wrongly been accused of TPN/OPM involvement. In Paniai eight civilians in two separate cases have been arrested and some tortured due to false accusations of TPN/OPM involvement, before being released without charge (see below).
Manokwari: Human rights activists charged with treason for peaceful demonstration and meeting
Three human rights activists, Markus Yenu, Eliaezer Awom and Jhon Warijo, have reportedly been charged with treason by the Manokwari police in relation to their involvement in a peaceful demonstration on 17 January 2013 and a meeting of the National Coalition of Young Papuans (Komite Nasional Pemudah Papua, KNPP), which took place between 31 January and 2 February 2013.
Police stated that they had received enough evidence from the description of eight witnesses against Markus Yenu, the Executive Governor of the West Papua National Authority (WPNA) District 2 of Manokwari, for the proceedings to go ahead. The case is currently being filed. Yenu was reportedly arrested on 6 March 2013 and taken to the Manokwari police station where he was interrogated about the peaceful demonstration on 17 January 2013 during which the Morning Star flag was flown.
While in detention, Yenu was allegedly visited by Yakobus Marzuki, the former Chief of Police in 2008 and current Director of the Papuan Police Intelligence who claimed that there was evidence proving Yenu’s involvement in provoking acts of arson and destruction on 5 December 2012 following the shooting of political prisoner Thimotius Ap. According to Yenu, police allegedly indicated that four others, Frans Kapisa, Billy Auparay, Ottow Rumaseb and Zeth Wambrauw, alongside Jakobus Wanggai and Eliaezer Awom, were also identified as suspects. Jakobus Wanggai is himself a former political prisoner, having served time in prison for raising the Melanesian 14-star flag. It is unclear whether Markus Yenu has legal representation at the time of writing.
The police reportedly stated that Eliaezer Awom and Jhon Warijo had not responded to the summons and that they would forcefully be brought in if the second summons was ignored. Police allegedly believe that Jhon Warijo, the head of the KNPP, is currently not in Manokwari and are said to be seeking witnesses to prove that during the demonstration on 17 January, Eliaezer Awom stated that he was the Commander of the OPM. They also claimed that they have secured evidence against the suspects in the form of three Morning Star flags and other documents seized during the demonstration.
Paniai: Six civilians arrested, pregnant woman molested and baby assaulted in raid to find pro-independence members
On 7 February 2013 Musa Yeimo, the leader of a local church in Ipakiye village, Paniai, was arrested and ill-treated along with five other civilians; Benny Yeimo, Mesak Yeimo, Sam Yeimo, Kalep Yeimo and Alpius Nawipa. While the six were detained in Paniai District Police Station, residents of Ipakiye village held two public protests demanding their release. The six civilians say they have no affiliations to the pro-independence OPM and were released unconditionally on 9 March due to lack of evidence.
According to a report by the Asian Human Rights Commission, prior to the arrests the joint police and army force raided the home of Stephanus Yogi, a civilian who managed to escape capture after receiving advance warning of the raid from other villagers. Four officers reportedly forced their way into the house and, unable to find Stephanus Yogi or get information from his wife Dorpina Gobay, they sexually harassed her and physically assaulted the couple’s 18-month old baby. Mrs Gobay had been unable to communicate with police as she speaks only the local language, and does not speak Indonesian.
There has been an increase in the targeting and arrests of civilians under accusations of their involvement with the TPN/OPM since the Puncak Jaya shootings that led to the death of eight Indonesian soliders and four civilians. There has been a reported increase in presence of the Indonesian army and police in Paniai since the Puncak Jaya shootings in February, and local activists reported several cases of intimidation and harassment of civilians involving arbitrary strip searches and confiscation or destruction of peoples’ mobile phones.
Serui: TPN camp case – Jon Nuntian released
According to a local activist report received via email, Jon Nuntian was reportedly released on or around 14 March 2013. Nuntian was arrested on 29 May 2012 under suspicion of involvement with a TPN camp and detained in Serui prison. On the night of his arrest, the Umagi news pro-independence website reported that military troops had burned houses in the local area of Wanampompi village, Yapen Island, which the police claimed contained a TPN/OPM training camp. This reportdescribes Nuntian as an ordinary civilian. He was charged with treason under Article 106 of the Criminal Code and it is uncertain if his trial ever commenced.
According to a report by Tabloid Jubi, when Wadapi residents demonstrated against the arrest of Jon Nuntian outside the Yapen Legislative Assembly, a journalist covering the event was threatened by the local police and warned not to publish the story.
Release of two teenagers alleged to be OPM members in Paniai
On 11 March 2013, teenagers Alpons Gobay and Meny Gobay were released from police detention. Aged 15 and 18 respectively, Alphons and Meny were reportedlyarrested in Paniai on 25 February and arbitrarily detained over trumped up charges for two weeks before being released. A local activist reported that the two teenagers were arrested in their house and charged with possession of ammunition. The pair had reportedly returned from the local market that morning when they found a stranger in their house, who informed them that he was resting and intended to go fishing in Bobaigo. The pair thought the stranger not to be a threat and carried on preparing their lunch. The man then left all of a sudden, leaving a noken (a woven Papuan bag) behind.
Soon after at 10:00, a joint army and police task force raided the house and arrested the men, allegedly beating them and later on torturing them while they were detained at Paniai Police Station. The police had reportedly found a handheld transceiver, a 7.56 caliber cartridge, a mobile phone, two TPN/OPM identity cards which do not belong to the teenagers, and woven Morning Star symbols in the noken that was left by the stranger. They charged the two teenagers with Emergency Law 12/1951 for possession of ammunition.
As with the above case of the six civilians arrested in Paniai, these arrests come in the wake of the Puncak Jaya shootings, following which there has been an increase in targeting of civilians under allegations of being members of TPN/OPM.
Political Trials and Cases Overview
While some ongoing political trials can be seen as ‘purely’ political cases, others allegedly involve criminal as well as political elements. Because these cases are more complex, Papuans Behind Bars is sometimes unable to determine whether the defendants are political prisoners until more details of the case are known. We are, however, concerned that some defendants are at risk of not receiving adequate legal representation or a fair trial due to the apparent political nature of the trials and the stigma around them.
Biak explosive trial continues
The trial of two activists from the West Papua National Committee (Komisi Nasional Papua Barat, KNPB), Barnabas Mansoben and Paulus Alua, continued in March. Charged with Emergency Law 12/1951 for possession of explosives, the two were awaiting the fourth hearing at the Biak District Court, which expected to hear the witnesses and examine the evidence. A lawyer for the two activists has stated that the indictments were excessive and had appealed to the judge for their release given the absence of strong evidence. The lawyer’s submission was rejected.
Timika treason and explosives case
On 22 March the trial of six KNPB members charged with possession of explosives continued at the Timika District Court, with all six called to the stand. Arrested on 29 October 2012, the defendants’ statements described the information presented in the police investigation report as untrue and stated that they had never even seen some of the items presented as evidence against them.
Yakonias Womsiwor stated that the indigenous Biak arrows and other sharp items used as evidence against him were items that he used for hunting and fishing. He also stated that unlike the claims in the indictment, Steven Itlay and Romario Yatipai did not order him to make those weapons and neither did Paulus Marsyom, Yanto Awerkion and Alfret Marsyon help him to make the arrows. The statements made by the five other KNPB members supported Womsiwor’s statement.
Steven Itlai and Romario Yatipai stated that they had both led demonstrations before, but that these had all been peaceful demonstrations that had received the necessary permits from the Timika police. Yanto Awerkion stated that he had no knowledge of, and was not the owner of the material used for dynamite fishing that was presented as evidence against him.The trial was due to continue on 28 March 2013 when witnesses were to be called to testify, however this session has been postponed until 4 April.
The KNPB in both Timika and Wamena have strongly denied that their members were involved in any conspiracy to make bombs, and allege that the accusations are part of a strategy to discredit and criminalise their organisation.
Wamena explosives case
An investigation report by a local human rights activist has revealed new information about the Wamena explosives case, in which several people have been arrested and allegedly tortured. Local human rights investigators believe a string of events to be connected to this case. The events which are believed to be related are: the arrests of eight or nine KNPB activists on 29 September 2012, an attack on a police post in Pirime around 27 November, the arrests and alleged torture of seven people on 29 November, the shooting of Hubertus Mabel and Natalias Alua and the arrest of KNPB activists Simeon Dabi, Meki Walo Kogoya and Wene Gombo on the morning of 16 December, the setting alight of the Wouma police post in Wamena town on the evening of 16 December, the burning down of the honai adat(traditional house) of the Papuan Indigenous Council (Dewan Adat Papua, DAP) that same evening following the shootings and arrests, and lastly the arrest and torture of Agus Hiluka on the evening of 16 December, in connection with the burning of the Wouma police post.
Eight or nine people were reportedly arrested in Wamena on 29 September 2012 in connection with a bomb found in the yard of the Jayawijaya District Legislative Office, including Yan Yunus Wamu, Edo Doga, Irika Kosay, Yusuf Hiluka, Yan Mabel, Lucky Matuan, Natalia Kosay (female), and Melianus Kosay. On 12 October 2012, five KNPB activists were arrested in Jayapura, allegedly in connection with the same case. The five youths – Yasons Sambom, Denny Hisage, Anike Kogoya, Feliks Bahabol and Linus Bahabol – were released without charge. On 13 October 2012 an individual with the initials ‘NL’ was reportedly arrested in Wamena in connection with the same case. On 27 November 2012, there was an attack on a police post in Pirime, several hours journey from Wamena, which was followed by the arrest and alleged torture of seven people: ‘KW’, ‘LK’, ‘TW’, ‘GK’, ‘DT’, ‘TT’ and ‘YW’, who have reportedly been bailed. On 1 December 2012, Athys Wenda of the Lani Jaya KNPB was arrested in Wamena, and it is now thought that he is being seen as linked to the Wamena explosives case.
On the morning of 16 December, KNPB activist Hubert Mabel was shot dead by security forces, allegedly Detachment 88. While previous reports had stated that Natalias Alua was murdered, local human rights activists report that he allegedly was in a coma and that although he has been freed from detention, he is required to report to the police. A report received by e-mail from a local human rights activist stated that Wene Gombo, who was arrested the same night, is no longer in detention but is required to report to the police. Meki Walo Kogoya and Wene Gombo were arbitrarily arrested, detained and allegedly tortured on 16 December 2012 by the police who reportedly sought to gain information on Hubert Mabel’s whereabouts. Later the same night the police post at Wouma in Wamena town was set alight, and following this the honai adat (traditional house) of the Papuan Indigenous Council (Dewan Adat Papua, DAP) was burned down, allegedly by police.
Following these events, according to reports received by local human rights investigators, police then arrested and severely tortured Agus Hiluka on the evening of 16 December 2012, on suspicion of setting the Wouma police post on fire. According to the report by local human rights investigators, Hiluka was severely beaten with a gun on his left ear and his left eye, until it was destroyed. He was also bleeding profusely from the mouth and nose. After the torture the police took him to Wamena hospital and handcuffed him to the bed. The following afternoon, upon finding the suspect still handcuffed to the bed and having soiled himself, local human rights defenders succeeded in persuading police to un-cuff Hiluka from the hospital bed, following which he was taken to police detention. The current whereabouts of Hiluka is unknown.
It is believed that at least eight KNPB members are currently facing trial: Edo Doga, Yan Yunus Wamu, Jemi Mabel, Melias Kosay, Natalia Kosay, Irika Kosay, Yusuf Hiluka, Lucky Matuan and Athys Wenda. A report received from a local human rights investigator states that nine people arrested at the KNPB secretariat in Wamena on 29 September 2012 are still in detention. The report also mentions others in connection with this case: Yupinus Daby, who was under investigation in relation to the Dani Kogoya case but later returned to Wamena to be charged for the Wamena explosives case, Kemius Jigibalom, though not connected to the case, was reportedly arrested for being mentally ill, and Sailin Kosay, who is thought to have been arrested with the eight other activists at the KNPB secretariat on 29 September 2012.
Trial begins for six KNPB activists in Abepura ammunition case
The trial of six pro-independence KNPB activists charged with possession of ammunition began on 28 March 2013. Denny Hisage , Rendis Wetipo, Wene J Wenda, Anike Kogoya, Jhon Pekey and Olis Pigay were reportedly arrested on 30 October 2012 and charged with Article 187 and 55 of the Indonesian Criminal Code and Emergency Law 12/1951. The six were allegedly arrested in a rented house containing ammunition. The activists are being provided with legal accompaniment by the Civil Society Coalition to Uphold Law and Human Rights in Papua.
Australian supporters show new film on demonstrations in West Papua and raise money for political prisoners
On 1 March the West Papua Melbourne Community hosted an awareness-raising evening at Kindness House in inner city Melbourne. Along with food and singing, the event hosted a film produced by Peter Woods, comprising footage from his last two trips to West Papua. The film was well received by an enthusiastic crowd of 50 people, and revealed the extent of the large public demonstrations demanding independence across West Papua during the 12 months following the Third Papuan People’s Congress in October 2011. The film will be available for showing in early May. The event raised AUD 300 in support of political prisoners in West Papua.
Arbitrary arrest and torture of civilians in Paniai
Local human rights activists have reported an arrest and alleged torture of Reverend Yunus Gobai, a local priest in Enarotoli, the regional centre of Paniai. On 2 March 2013 at 08:30, Gobai was arrested and allegedly tortured by local and Mobile Brigades (Brigades Mobile, Brimob) police at the Enarotali police compound, resulting in severe injuries. He was released after family members were reportedly forced by the Paniai police to gather money to secure his release despite the lack of criminal charges against Gobai. He was released two hours after his arrest. Local activists report that the priest was arrested after exhibiting symptoms of a mental illness that he suffers from. Police claim that Gobai was arrested because he had assaulted a woman and that the money given by his family was a fine demanded by her.
On 7 March another case of arbitrary arrests in Sinak in the district of Paniai was reported. Local news site Suara Papua reported that three members of the Baptist Church; Tinius Kiwo, Wurin Tabuni and Kiwenus Tabuni, were arrested by Wamena district police and their whereabouts is not currently known. The three men were allegedly severely tortured with razor blades following their arrest. The report also states that the reason behind their arrest and detention remains unclear.
As with the political arrests of civilians in Paniai outlined above, these arbitrary arrests come at an unstable time following the Puncak Jaya shootings, where civilians are being targeted by police under false suspicion of TPN/OPM involvement.
Joint Oral Statement in UN Human Rights Council demands release of political prisoners
On 12 March 2013, a coalition of NGOs including the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), the International Coalition for Papua (ICP) and Survival International (SI) presented a joint oral statement to 22nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council. The statement addressed the increasing persecution and arbitrary arrests of political activists and human rights defenders in West Papua, under the guise of anti-terrorism measures. The case of torture of 20 inmates in Abepura prison, the arrests of seven men in Depapre in connection with pro-independence activists and the arrest and ill-treatment of Yunus Gobai were highlighted in the statement to illustrate the problem of ongoing violence and impunity in Papua. The statement called for peaceful dialogue under neutral mediation, open access to Papua and the release of all political prisoners.
Political prisoner Selpius Bobii speaks out on the challenges facing West Papua
Human rights activist and political prisoner Selpius Bobii has published two articles entitled “The Annihilation of Indigenous West Papuans: A Challenge and a Hope,” and “Stop violence in Paniai, proceed with heart to heart communication”. His first article addresses the challenges facing West Papua, including amongst others, the violations that have resulted from Indonesian military operations, health issues and the loss of land and natural resources affecting the indigenous people.
His second article highlights the violence, intimidation and unlawful detention in recent weeks in Paniai, warning that conflicts in Papua affect both Papuans and non-Papuans alike, although indigenous Papuans are most adversely affected. Bobii was arrested on 19 October 2011 at a gathering of the Papuan Peoples’ Congress in Jayapura that was shut down by Indonesian security forces. He is currently serving a three-year sentence on charges of treason.
Ex-political prisoner Herman Wainggai advocates in the US for the release of Papuan political prisoners
Herman Wainggai, an ex-political prisoner who now advocates in the US for human rights issues in Papua, spoke at an event on 27 March 2013 organised by the Free West Papua Political Prisoners campaign. The campaign aims to inform the general public of the issues facing West Papua and to gain support for the release of political prisoners. Wainggai was arrested in 2002 and charged with treason for an event he organised where the fourteen-star West Melanesian flag was to be raised. If you are based in the US and would like to find out more about the campaign you can get in touch with Amy Frazier or Herman Wainggai.
March 2013 Papuan political prisoners
|Prisoner||Arrested||Charges||Sentence||Case||Accused of violence?||Concerns reported re legal process?||Prison|
|Markus Yenu||6 March 2013||106||Trial ongoing||Manokwari demonstration and KNPP meeting||No||Pending||Manokwari|
|Isak Demetouw (alias Alex Makabori)||3 March 2013||110; Article 2, Emergency Law 12/1951||Trial ongoing||Accused of being TPN/OPM||No||Pending||Sarmi|
|Daniel Norotouw||3 March 2013||110; Article 2, Emergency Law 12/1951||Trial ongoing||Accused of being TPN/OPM||No||Pending||Sarmi|
|Niko Sasomar||3 March 2013||110; Article 2, Emergency Law 12/1951||Trial ongoing||Accused of being TPN/OPM||No||Pending||Sarmi|
|Sileman Teno||3 March 2013||110; Article 2, Emergency Law 12/1951||Trial ongoing||Accused of being TPN/OPM||No||Pending||Sarmi|
|Matan Klembiap||15 February 2013||110; Article 2, Emergency Law 12/1951||Trial ongoing||Terianus Satto and Sebby Sambom affiliation||No||Yes||Police detention, Jayapura|
|Daniel Gobay||15 February 2013||110; Article 2, Emergency Law 12/1951||Trial ongoing||Terianus Satto and Sebby Sambom affiliation||No||Yes||Police detention, Jayapura|
|Alfret Marsyom||19 October 2012||106, Emergency Law 12/1951||Trial ongoing||Timika explosives case||Possession of weapons||Yes||Timika|
|Yakonius Womsiwor||19 October 2012||106, Emergency Law 12/1951||Trial ongoing||Timika explosives case||Possession of weapons||Yes||Timika|
|Yantho Awerkion||19 October 2012||106, Emergency Law 12/1951||Trial ongoing||Timika explosives case||Possession of weapons||Yes||Timika|
|Paulus Marsyom||19 October 2012||106, Emergency Law 12/1951||Trial ongoing||Timika explosives case||Possession of weapons||Yes||Timika|
|Romario Yatipai||19 October 2012||106, Emergency Law 12/1951||Trial ongoing||Timika explosives case||Possession of weapons||Yes||Timika|
|Steven Itlay||19 October 2012||106, Emergency Law 12/1951||Trial ongoing||Timika explosives case||Possession of weapons||Yes||Timika|
|Jamal Omrik Manitori||3 July 2012||106||Not yet tried||Serui ‘TPN camp’ case||Unknown||Yes||Serui|
|Yan Piet Maniamboi||9 August 2012||106||Trial ongoing||Indigenous people’s day celebrations, Yapen||No||Yes||Serui|
|Edison Kendi||9 August 2012||106||Trial ongoing||Indigenous people’s day celebrations, Yapen||No||Yes||Serui|
|Timur Wakerkwa||1 May 2012||106||3 years||1 May demo and flag-raising||No||No||Abepura|
|Darius Kogoya||1 May 2012||106||3 years||1 May demo and flag-raising||No||No||Abepura|
|Paulus Alua||21 October 2012||Emergency Law 12/1951||Trial ongoing||Biak explosives case||Possession of explosives||Yes||Biak|
|Barnabas Mansoben||21 October 2012||Emergency Law 12/1951||Trial ongoing||Biak explosives case||Possession of explosives||No||Biak|
|Forkorus Yaboisembut||19 October 2011||106||3 years||Third Papua Congress||No||Yes||Abepura|
|Edison Waromi||19 October 2011||106||3 years||Third Papua Congress||No||Yes||Abepura|
|Dominikus Surabut||19 October 2011||106||3 years||Third Papua Congress||No||Yes||Abepura|
|August Kraar||19 October 2011||106||3 years||Third Papua Congress||No||Yes||Abepura|
|Selpius Bobii||20 October 2011||106||3 years||Third Papua Congress||No||Yes||Abepura|
|Wiki Meaga||20 November 2010||106||8 years||Yalengga flag-raising||No||Yes||Wamena|
|Oskar Hilago||20 November 2010||106||8 years||Yalengga flag-raising||No||Yes||Wamena|
|Meki Elosak||20 November 2010||106||8 years||Yalengga flag-raising||No||Yes||Wamena|
|Obeth Kosay||20 November 2010||106||8 years||Yalengga flag-raising||No||Yes||Wamena|
|Yusanur Wenda||30 April 2004||106||17 years||Wunin arrests||Yes||No||Wamena|
|Dipenus Wenda||28 March 2004||106||14 years||Bokondini election boycott||Unclear||No||Wamena|
|George Ariks||13 March 2009||106||5 years||Unknown||Unknown||No||Manokwari|
|Filep Karma||1 December 2004||106||15 years||Abepura flag-raising 2004||No||Yes||Abepura|
|Ferdinand Pakage||16 March 2006||214||15 years||Abepura case 2006||Yes||Yes||Abepura|
|Luis Gedi||16 March 2006||214||15 years||Abepura case 2006||Yes||Yes||Abepura|
|Jefrai Murib||12 April 2003||106||Life||Wamena ammunition store raid||Yes||Yes||Abepura|
|Linus Hiluka||27 May 2003||106||20 years||Wamena ammunition store raid||Yes||Yes||Nabire|
|Kimanus Wenda||12 April 2003||106||20 years||Wamena ammunition store raid||Yes||Yes||Nabire|
|Numbungga Telenggen||11 April 2003||106||Life||Wamena ammunition store raid||Yes||Yes||Biak|
|Apotnalogolik Lokobal||10 April 2003||106||20 years||Wamena ammunition store raid||Yes||Yes||Biak|