Michael Heselo was a 31-year-old farmer from Wouma village near Wamena town, Jayawijaya district, when he was arrested and charged with treason following an alleged raid on the Jayawijaya District Military Command weapons arsenal on 4 April 2003.
A report by a local NGO coalition states that Mr Heselo was initially arrested at his home on 7 April, three days after the raid. He was then released on the condition that he reported regularly to the police. On subsequent days, the police searched his house when he was not at home and took some of his possessions, including IDR 350,000 (around $40) in cash. The police then reportedly forced one of Mr Heselo’s friends to accompany them to another village where they thought he might be hiding, but did not find him. Mr Heselo eventually gave himself up to the police on 21 April, as he was frightened after being hunted by the police and army for so long.
The NGO coalition report details visible evidence that Mr Heselo had been tortured. This included long thin burn marks all over his body, his face swollen with bruising around both temples, and his jaw was loose from beatings. Both his thumbnails had been pulled out, his two big toes and right index finger had been crushed under the leg of a table, and his right shin bone had been kicked with jackboots, resulting in severe injuries.
The same report also notes that although Mr Heselo was the only prisoner from this case who was permitted to see a lawyer, the following day on 28 April he was suddenly removed to the Papua Police Headquarters in Jayapura by military plane. The move took place without notification nor the provision of any explanation to his legal team.
An undated report by Alliance of Democracy for Papua (Aliansi Demokrasi untuk Papua, ALDP) noted many accusations of irregularities in the trial. These included the lack of translators and the prosecution remaining almost silent throughout the trial as their role was being assumed by the judges themselves. The judges reportedly failed to respect the defendants’ rights to be assumed innocent until proven guilty, and pushed the prisoners to accept the state’s version of the story. They also repeated prejudices about the local people of Wamena, such as “people here are lazy and stupid.” Mr Heselo was found guilty under the charges of treason (article 106 of the Indonesian penal code) and conspiracy (article 110) and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment.
There have been a number of concerns raised about the treatment of those incarcerated in connection with this case. In 2004 while imprisoned in Wamena prison, Mr Heselo and the other people accused of the raid on the weapons store were reportedly “still being intimidated by the intelligence of the Military District Command and Police Mobile Brigade, even when in jail,” according to Ms Anum Siregar, a member of their legal team. They were also allegedly being denied access to the prison hall, where they were supposed to be able to meet their families or take exercise, because the military were using it for their own purposes.
A report by ALDP (2008) describes the forced removal of Mr Heselo from Wamena prison, where he was initially held. On 15 December 2004 he, along with eight other prisoners, was reportedly woken in the middle of the night, beaten until bruised and bleeding and forced to get into a police vehicle. The prisoners were moved to Gunung Sari prison in Makassar on the island of Sulawesi, far from their families. The sudden nature of this move caused fears for their safety at the time.
On 31 August 2007 Mr Heselo died in Makassar after spending around one month at the Bayangkara Hospital. At the time, TAPOL reported that on hearing that Mr Heselo had been taken ill, members of his family had intended to visit him in hospital, but were unable to afford the plane tickets from Papua to Makassar. His death sparked protests in Jayapura, and demonstrators demanded that when Mr Heselo’s body was returned to Papua, the remaining eight Papuan prisoners in Makassar should be brought back as well, a demand echoed by the family of the deceased. All eight were political prisoners charged with treason, five in connection with this case and three in connection with a different case.
Aliansi Demokrasi untuk Papua, “Mereka pulang mimpi,” 5 February 2008, http://andawat-papua.blogspot.com/2008/02/mereka-pulang-mimpi.html
Aliansi Demokrasi untuk Papua, “Peristiwa Pembobolan Gudang Senjata KODIM 1702 Jayawijaya, Wamena, 4 April 2003,” [undated], http://www.aldepe.com/2011/04/peristiwa-pembobolan-gudang-senjata_04.html
NGO coalition for the protection and upholding of Human Rights in Papua, Jayapura, “Initial report into the 4 April 2003 Wamena case,” 6 May 2003, http://hampapua.org/skp/skp06/var-04i.pdf
Sekretariat untuk Keadilan dan Perdamaian, “They still intimidated, even in jail!” Jayapura, 5 June 2004, http://www.hampapua.org/skp/skp05/info04-2004e.pdf
TAPOL (via indonesia-act mailing list), “Papuan Prisoner dies in Prison in Makassar,” 4 September 2007, http://email@example.com/read/message.html?sort=t&mid=812867179