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Rights lawyers question trial location of 7 Papuan activists

There's no reason why their trial for allegedly inciting unrest should take place the other side of Indonesia, they say

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Rights lawyers question trial location of 7 Papuan activists

Protesting indigenous Papuans attempt to set fire to the provincial parliament building in Manokwari, West Papua province in this Aug. 18, 2019 file photo. (Photo supplied)

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Human rights lawyers and the families of seven Papuan prisoners awaiting trial in Indonesia’s Kalimantan region have called on authorities to switch the proceedings to Papau for the sake of transparency.

Having them back in Papua would make monitoring legal proceedings against them easier, the Papua Law and Human Rights Enforcement Coalition said in a statement on Dec. 18.

A claim by authorities that the decision to put them on trial in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, for security reasons was far-fetched, the coalition said.

Their trial is due to start next week.

"Papua at this time is relatively stable and conducive for trials of those currently facing legal problems, including those being detained in Kalimantan," Emanuel Gobay, the coalition's coordinator, told ucanews.

The seven prisoners were arrested in Jayapura in early September and accused of orchestrating demonstrations and violent unrest in various cities in Papua.

The unrest was sparked by an alleged racist incident in Surabaya, in East Java Aug. 16, when some Papuan students were reportedly called monkeys, dogs, and pigs while being arrested for defacing an Indonesian flag.

The seven suspects arrested during the ensuing unrest were either student activists or had links to pro-separatist groups such as the West Papua National Committee and United Liberation Movement for West Papua, the lawyers said.

Police moved all seven to the other side of the country to East Kalimantan on Borneo Island on Oct. 4.

Gobay said there was no reason why they should be tried there when the alleged crimes took place in Papua.

"All the evidence is in Jayapura," he said. Jayapura is the capital and largest city in Papua province.

Gustaf Kawer, another lawyer, said the rights of the suspects must be taken into consideration.

"By moving them far away, it is difficult for their families and us to monitor their condition," he said.

"If we have to go all the way to East Kalimantan, it will cost us a huge amount of money," he said.

Papua Regional Police spokesman, Ahmad Mustofa Kamal, dismissed their concerns saying, "the case was being handled following procedures."

He also said the Supreme Court decided to try the suspects in East Kalimantan's Balikpapan District Court.

"It was for efficiency reasons. It was to allow investigators to handle the case more effectively and professionally," he said.

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