INDONESIA: Rights activist Buchtar Tabuni in trial on charges of subversion

Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) regrets to inform you that the subversion charges against rights activist Mr. Buchtar Tabuni, referred to as Buktar Tabuni in previous appeal have not been dropped, and that he is currently facing trial at Jayapura District Court, Indonesia. The main charge against him is under article no. 106 of the Indonesian Penal Code, which, in effect, criminalizes the expression of certain political opinions.


On February 18, 2009 the trial against Mr. Buchtar Tabuni started at Jayapura Disctrict Court. Mr. Tabuni was arrested after a political demonstration in October 2008. The charges against him are 'subversion' under article 106 of the Indonesian Penal Code; 'incitement' under article 160 as well as 'resisting personnel of the state' under article 212.

The prosecutor Maskel Rambolangi SH specified that these crimes are said to have been committed in relation to a demonstration held on October 16, 2008 in support of the International Parliamentarians for West Papua (IPWP). Mr. Tabuni is accused of having organized this demonstration, which the prosecutor argued was evidenced by the fact that he had delivered political speeches at two mass demonstrations at the campus of University of Cenderwasih on the same day of the IPWP demonstration.

The prosecutor also used a number of banners with political messages, such as; 'Referendum Yes, Special Autonomy No'; 'We want International dialog' and 'The UN Invasion of West Papua. We Want Peace', as evidence of Mr Tabuni's guilt.

The trial will continue on February 25, 2009 when the defence will deliver their response to the accusations.


Mr. Tabuni was originally arrested on December 3, 2008 by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the police of Papua, and taken into custody. Since then he has been kept in various detention centers such as Jayapura police prison and Abepura prison. In the latter he was subjected to torture by prison guards.

Mr. Tabuni is currently being tried under article 106, 160, and 212 of the Indonesian Penal Code. These articles criminalize:

"The attempt to bring the territory of the state wholly or partially under foreign domination or to separate part thereof shall be punished by life imprisonment or a maximum imprisonment of twenty years." (Art. 106)

"Any person who orally or in writing incites in public to commit a punishable act, a violent action against the public authority or any other disobedience, either to a statutory provision or to an official order issued under a statutory provision, shall be punished by a maximum imprisonment of six years." (Art. 160)

"Any person who by violence, or threat of violence, resists an official acting in the lawful performance of his official duties, or persons who thereby aid him by virtue of statutory obligations or at his request shall, being guilty of rebelliousness be punished by a maximum imprisonment of one year and four months" (Art. 212)


Mr Tabuni is part of an increasing number of rights activists in Papua who are being harassed by Indonesian state agents for their political opinions and activities.

A climate of political repression has evolved in the region, characterized by public fear of state agents, and hesitation with regards to expressing political opinion in public. The repressive political climate is being backed and justified by the subversion laws, under which Mr. Tabuni now stands charged.

The application of the subversion laws has seen an increase in the last ten years in conflict regions such as Papua. Events that would earlier have been considered political issues and handled through dialogue, are now increasingly seen as criminal issues, and dealt with by jailing the people involved.

This is a very worrying development in Papua. Bearing this in mind, it is unlikely that Mr Tabuni will be freed of the charges laid against him, and that the trial will be transparent and fair. Hence, it is plausible to assume that Mr. Tabuni will be sentenced to up to 20 years of imprisonment, as a direct consequence of having exercised his freedom of expression.

Please write to the concerned authorities below requesting for their appropriate intervention promptly. Mr. Tabuni should be released unconditionally and the charges against him should be instantly withdrawn.

The AHRC has also written to the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression calling for intervention in this case.

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