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Indonesian police accused of holding six Papuan activists illegally

Rights lawyers threaten legal action over arrests made 'without court warrant' and on flimsy evidence

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Indonesian police accused of holding six Papuan activists illegally

Papuan students take part in a protest push toward a line of police and troops blocking access to the Indonesian army’s headquarters in Jakarta in August. (Photo by Bay Ismoyo/AFP)   

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Human rights lawyers have called for the immediate release of six detained activists from Indonesia’s restive Papua province who were arrested and charged with treason almost two months ago during a protest in Jakarta.

Lawyers from the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation say the charge, which carries a 20-year prison term, is baseless and makes their arrest and detention illegal.   

The six were arrested on Aug. 30 after raising the Morning Star flag — a pro-independence symbol banned by the government — at a protest outside the presidential palace in Jakarta two days earlier.

Surya Anta, Charles Kossay, Dano Tabuni, Isay Wenda, Ambrosius Mulait and Arina Elopere are all being held at Mako Brimob prison in Depok, West Java.

“Their arrest and detention are illegal,” Okky Wiratama Siagian, one of the rights lawyers, told ucanews on Oct. 22

Police also failed to secure a court warrant prior to their arrest, she said.

"The police immediately accused them of treason without even questioning them. Also, investigators even failed to find the [Morning Star] flag that triggered the arrest,” she said.

Siagian said the foundation would initiate legal proceedings against the police if the activists remain in detention “because police can’t find substantial evidence” to keep them in jail.

Michael Hilman, another lawyer, said another major concern is that the activists’ health had deteriorated while in detention. “They are suffering from various ailments as well as trauma," he said without giving details.

The lawyers’ call received support from other rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, which also urged the foundation to press for the release of other Papuan activists detained across Indonesia.

Calling the arrest of the six activists “arbitrary,” Andreas Harsono, Human Rights Watch’s Indonesian researcher, said he also hoped the lawyers would expand the scope of their legal action to help other detained Papuans.

There are 22 Papuan activists detained in various jails in Papua and Jakarta that need legal assistance, he said.

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