Buchtar Tabuni and others to go on trial on 18 February

Cenderawasih Pos, 14 and 16 February 2009
(Summary with additional information from Tapol)

Preparations are being made for the trial of Buchtar Tabuni and
colleagues which is due to commence in Jayapura on 18 February. A team
of 43 lawyers has been organised to defend him when he faces the charge
of subversion (makar).

The charges against Buchtar Tabuni arise from a demonstration which he
organised on 16 October 2008 to welcome the launch of the International
Parliamentarians for West Papua in London on that day.

Pieter Eli, the lawyer who heads the defence team, said that Buchtar
will be charged under Article 160 of the Criminal Code. This was a
matter for regret as, in this opinion, this Article was no longer
relevant in this day and age. The Article should no longer be used as it
is part of Indonesia's legacy from the Dutch colonial era and was used
against those who struggled for independence. He announced that a group
of lawyers plan to file for a judicial review with the Constitution
Court, requesting that the Article be withdrawn from the country's
Criminal Code.

Eli said that the trial for subversion would be followed with a great
deal of interest by the general public.

The event last year should, in his opinion be treated as a political
affair and not a matter for the courts. Back in 1998, there were many
incidents such as the meeting between Papuans and the then president,
J.B. Habibie. The assassination of the Papuan leader Theys Eluay and the
appointment of Thaha Al Hamid, chairman of the PDP (Presidium Dewan
Papua) were treated as political events and did not lead to anyone being
tried for subversion.

He drew attention to three issues which needed attention: a reappraisal
of history, the resolution of human right abuses and a range of economic

He also said he was very concerned with the treatment of the prisoners
who had been transferred to a special prison for narcotics criminals,
then subsequently moved back to Abepura Prison. He regretted the lack of
communication regarding this transfer with the defence team. He said
that his clients should not be treated as convicts as their status at
present is as defendants..

The defence team will be having a meeting with Buchtar Tabunito discuss
the forthcoming trial which is scheduled to commence on 18 February. It
is anticipated that there will be a substantial police presence to guard
the court, in accordance with a request made to the police by court
officials. The chairman of the Jayapura Court confirmed that they had
made a formal request to the police to provide security during the
trial. This suggests that the trial is likely to attract a large number
of people inside and outside the court.

The first day of the trial will be devoted to the presentation of the
charges by the public prosecutor and his team. It remains to be seen
when the following hearing will be held.

They were transferred into police custody on 5 February and subsequently
transferred to a prison for narcotics criminals but later moved to
Sentani Prison under heavy police guard, but soon after this transfer,
Buchtar (and others?) was moved to Abepura Prison. All attempts by
journalists to find out the reason for these transfers were ignored by
the authorities. Prison officials were clearly concerned about the
presence of journalists outside the prison, and the journalists
eventually left the scene without being told anything about the prisoners.

The chairman of Dewan Adat Papua (Papuan Traditional Council) Forkorus
Yaboisembut said that the behaviour of the law enforcement officers was
a matter of deep concern; he said that a statement should have been
issued explaining the reasons for the transfers. It was unacceptable
that they had been placed in a prison for narcotics as the charges
against them were in no way linked to narcotics crimes. He accused the
authorities of cowardice and condemned the fact that there had been no
explanation for these transfers. He was also concerned that the
transfers would convey the wrong impression to the general public and
could also have a psychological impact on the prisoners.