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Indonesia arrests Papuan leader over 'fake news'

Head of West Papua National Committee allegedly posted provocative stories about church leaders

Indonesia arrests Papuan leader over 'fake news'

Indonesian police question Manuel Metemko after his arrest for allegedly spreading fake news in Merauke. (Photo: Nemangkawi Task Force)

Indonesian authorities have arrested a Papuan pro-independence leader for allegedly spreading false and inflammatory stories on social media, including fake news about Catholic Church leaders.

Manuel Metemko, 38, chairman of the pro-separatist West Papua National Committee (KNPB), was arrested by a joint military and police team called the Nemangkawi Task Force in Merauke district on June 9.

“He has repeatedly spread hoaxes, provocative stories and hatred online via his Facebook page,” task force spokesman Iqbal Alqudussy told reporters on June 10.

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One of his posts claimed that Sacred Heart Archbishop Petrus Canisius Mandagi, who was allegedly the target of suicide bombers, was targeted by terrorists aiming to prevent a visit by Pope Francis to Papua.

In another, he allegedly claimed the supposed plot could have been a bid by authorities to stop religious leaders talking about the violence in Papua.

Yet another post said religious leaders were being terrorized by unidentified people.

It was strange that the task force made the arrest as it would normally be an investigator that did it

Other posts included calls for an independence referendum and condemnation of Papua’s special autonomy status. 

He was charged under Indonesia’s Electronic Information and Transaction law and could be sentenced to six years in prison.

Emanuel Gobay, director of the Legal Aid Foundation in Papua, said Metemko’s arrest was unusual. 

There have been no complaints filed with police about his posts, which you might have expected before his arrest, he said. 

Also, “it was strange that the task force made the arrest as it would normally be an investigator that did it,” Gobay said, adding that everything pointed to authorities targeting KNPB leaders. 

He said Metemko was the second KNPB leader arrested by the task force.

Victor Yeimo, the group’s international spokesman, was arrested in the provincial capital Jayapura on May 9 in connection with anti-racism riots in August 2019 in cities across Papua in which more than 30 people were killed.

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