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Activist priest challenges Indonesia's treason law

Constitutional Court called to review law which opponents say is used in a dicriminatory way in Papua

Activist priest challenges Indonesia's treason law

Indonesian police arrest Papuan demonstrators during a protest in Jakarta in this file photo. Activists say treason charges are often pressed against Papuans who protest against rights abuses and call for basic social services (Photo by Romeo Gacad/AFP)


July 14, 2017

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An Indonesian priest in Papua has joined rights activists in filing a judicial review of the country's treason law in the Constitutional Court.

They said the right to freedom of expression is being abused by authorities who slap treason charges against people for simply taking part in peaceful demonstrations.

The activists want the court to clarify what provisions in the law justify the charge and whether they are constitutional.

The law is used as a tool by the government to suppress the voices of Papuans protesting against injustice and rights abuses, said Father John Djonga.

"Ordinary Papuans stage demonstrations to protest abuses by the state apparatus, as well as lack of health and education services, but they are later arrested and charged with treason," he told on July 13.

Their lawyer, Yusman Conoras, said the government is applying the law in a very discriminatory way.

"In Jakarta, every day there are people demonstrating and it is treated casually. However, if in Papua people hold rallies, they are considered separatists, "he said.

Over-repressive measures are dangerous because they trigger and foster resentment, he said.

According to the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace 2,214 civilians and 489 political activists in Papua were victims of rights abuses last year, many of whom were arrested during demonstrations.


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