Thursday, March 14, 2013

Papuans Behind Bars - a new support initiative for political prisoners

Buchtar Tabuni (right in the sunglasses) with KNPB's Victor Yeimo.
Photo: Andrew Suripatty/Tempo Politik/Antara
PAPUANS BEHIND BARS is a new project about political prisoners in West Papua. The group aims  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, Jakarta-based NGOs and international solidarity groups.

The project holds records of over 200 current and former political prisoners and the website - - will go live sometime later this month.

The group pledges to publish monthly Updates, providing alerts on political arrests and a round-up of latest developments affecting Papuan political prisoners. The recent Update is the first in the series.

Questions and comments are welcomed, and the group can be contacted at:

In brief
At the end of January 2013, there were 33 political prisoners in Papuan jails. Two political prisoners were released and there were at least seven political arrests. Trials began for the Timika treason and explosives case and the Serui Indigenous people’s day case, and trials for the Wamena explosives case and Dani Kogoya case were expected to begin soon.

The three-year sentences of two men who raised the flag at a demonstration in May 2012, Darius Kogoya and Timur Wakerkwa, were submitted for appeal to the Jayapura High Court. The Mantembu "TPN camp" case has yet to come to trial.

Parole requests are pending for Apotnalogolik Lokobal, Kimanus Wenda and Linus Hiluka, all serving long sentences in connection with the raid on the Wamena military arsenal in 2003.

In connection with the same case, requests were submitted to commute the life sentences of Jefrai Murib and Numbungga Telenggen to fixed term sentences.

A request for clemency submitted in 2010 on behalf of six political prisoners currently held in Wamena prison has still met with no response from the government.

Seven activists arrested in Mantembu
Seven activists were reportedly arrested in Mantembu village, Yapen island on 16 January 2013, ahead of demonstrations planned for the next day. The seven were named as Yohan Ayum, Lamkiur Ayum, Penina Pangkurei, Oki Warkawani, Mambiwa Wandamani, Simeon Ayum, and Isak Warkawani.

They were reportedly arrested for allegedly supporting Papuan independence. It is not yet known whether the seven are still in detention, or whether they have been charged.

Buchtar Tabuni released, secures release of Simeon Dabi
On 18 January at 09:00, Buchtar Tabuni, an activist in the West Papua National Committee (Komisi Nasional Papua Barat,KNPB) and leader of the unofficial West Papua National Parliament, was released after completing an eight-month prison sentence.

He had been convicted for allegedly leading a riot in Abepura prison in 2010.

The riot broke out when inmates heard that a former prisoner, Miron Wetipo, had been shot dead shortly after escaping. Mr Tabuni, who was in prison for leading a demonstration at the time, has always maintained that he was simply trying to mediate the situation in the jail.

Buchtar Tabuni's first act on being let out of prison was to walk to the site where fellow KNPB leader Mako Tabuni was shot dead by police one week after the re-arrest of Buchtar Tabuni.

Shortly afterwards he flew to Wamena, where he reportedly went to police headquarters to try and ensure the release of KNPB members accused of possessing explosives.

He offered to act as a guarantor that they would not run away or commit acts of violence. On these terms the police agreed to release Wamena KNPB leader Simeon Dabi, although the others remained in jail.

On 6 February Buchtar Tabuni continued to Timika, where he also called on the six KNPB members being held in prison there, on the day before their first trial hearing.

The KNPB reported that he told them:
“Now you're in the little prison, but if they let you out you'll be in the big prison. 
"In the little prison everything is provided – food, water, a place to sleep. But on the outside finding food and drink is tough, moving about is tough, cultivating a piece of land is tough – everything is tough, that's why the big prison is outside.”

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