A group of Indonesian religious leaders, academics, activists and cultural figures have called on President Joko Widodo to free all political prisoners from Papua and Maluku.
The call came as Indonesia prepared to mark its Independence Day on Aug. 17.
According to Amnesty International Indonesia, there are at least 46 prisoners of conscience from Papua and Maluku, with 10 jailed in Ambon in Maluku province, 34 in West Papua and two in Papua province, including Polish national Jacob Skrzypski, for supporting Papuan separatists.
They were arrested and accused of treason and other charges for raising separatist flags — the Morning Star flag in Papua and the Rainbow flag in Maluku.
“As we mark Indonesian Independence Day, we urge President Joko Widodo to free all political prisoners from Papua and Maluku,” the group, calling itself the Risalah Jakarta community forum, said in a joint statement on Aug 13.
The forum, initiated by former religious affairs minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin in 2018, said the president has the authority to give amnesty ahead of Independence Day.
To mark Independence Day in 2015, Widodo granted clemency to five Papuan political prisoners.
“It’s time for all political prisoners from Papua and Maluku to be freed. They should not be punished because they exercised their rights to argue, express their views and gather peacefully,” the forum said.
The prisoners have not broken any laws, according to Usman Hamid, executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia.
“We uphold the principle of freedom of expression, including the rights to voice independence or political ideas provided they don’t contain hatred, discrimination and violence,” he said.
Hamid said law enforcers often use treason articles in the Criminal Code that are not in accordance with international human rights, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which has been ratified by Indonesia.
“Political differences should be settled with a dignified approach and based on social-justice principles, not with a prison sentence,” said Alissa Wahid, daughter of former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid and head of the Wahid Institute, a research center on Islam.
Separately, Sacred Heart Bishop Petrus Canisius Mandagi of Amboina in Maluku also called for the release of prisoners of conscience.
“They too deserve justice,” said Bishop Mandagi, who is also the apostolic administrator of Merauke Archdiocese in Papua.