Indonesia pardons Papuan prisoner

Indonesia pardons Papuan prisoner

The Sydney Morning Herald, 8 July 2010

A prominent Papuan activist jailed for raising an outlawed separatist flag has been released after Indonesia granted him a pardon, an official said on Thursday.

Yusak Pakage was arrested in 2004 in the Papuan capital of Jayapura for flying the Morning Star flag as part of a ceremony commemorating the 1962 declaration of Papuan independence.

He was sentenced in 2005 to ten years in jail for subversion.

"We set him free on Wednesday following a presidential decree dated on June 24 that accepted the pardon request from Yusak Pakage," said Nazarudin Bunasthe, head of the Justice and Human Rights Ministry's Papua office.

"He was supposed to be free in 2013," he added.

Bunas said this was the first presidential pardon granted to a political prisoner in Papua.

Benny Giay, a prominent Papuan activist, said the pardon represented slim progress on a myriad problems in Papua.

"Despite Pakage's release, the threat for Papuan people to be easily sent to jail remains high," he told AFP.

Indonesian courts have handed stiff penalties, including life in prison, to people caught with separatist symbols such as the Papuan flag.

More than 170 people are in prison for peacefully promoting separatism in Indonesia, most of them from Papua or the eastern Maluku islands, according to Human Rights Watch.

Indonesia took control of Papua, a former Dutch colony on the western half of New Guinea island, in 1969 after a vote among a select group of Papuans widely seen as a sham.

Papuans have long accused Indonesia's military of violating human rights in the province and complain that the bulk of earnings from its rich natural resources flow to Jakarta.

Indonesia also released on Wednesday Papuan political prisoner Chosmos Yual, who was sentenced to six years in jail for his role in a violent pro-independence rally in Jayapura in 2006, Bunas said.

© 2010 AFP

Amnesty International Welcomes Release of Indonesian Prisoner of Conscience Jailed for Raising Flag
Amnesty International USA, 8 July 2010

Amnesty International has welcomed the release of an Indonesian prisoner of conscience jailed for his role in a peaceful flag-raising protest.

Yusak Pakage, 31, was released on Wednesday morning from the Doyo Baru prison in Sentani, Papua province. He had been serving a ten-year sentence for his role in a peaceful demonstration in December 2004 during which the Morning Star flag, symbolizing Papuan independence, was raised.

According to local sources, Yusak Pakage was released because he was granted a presidential pardon last month, following the Indonesian Justice and Human Rights Minister's visit with political prisoners in May 2010. Yusak Pakage has served half of his 10-year sentence. On his release, he thanked Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for campaigning on his behalf.

"We are delighted that Yusak has been freed but he should never have been convicted in the first place," said Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International's Indonesia researcher. "The authorities should always make a distinction between peaceful political activists and violent groups. In particular, the Indonesian authorities should no longer arrest, detain and convict people for merely waving a flag in Maluku or Papua."

Fifty-year-old prisoner of conscience Filep Karma, who was also arrested in 2004 for his role during the demonstration, is still serving a 15-year sentence for "rebellion." He is currently in need of urgent medical care at Abepura Prison in Papua province. Although he was recently granted permission to travel to Jakarta to receive further treatment, the Indonesian authorities have been delaying his travel.

"The Indonesian authorities should organize Filep Karma's transfer to Jakarta immediately so that he can receive medical treatment, and then release him," said Arradon.

In Indonesia, scores of peaceful political activists in Papua and Maluku have been arrested, detained and sometimes sentenced to long-term imprisonment for attending or participating in peaceful flag-raising events.

"While Amnesty International takes no position on the political status of any province of Indonesia, the right to freedom of expression, including the right to peacefully advocate referenda, independence or other political solutions, must be upheld," said Arradon.

Since 2004, Amnesty International USA has campaigned for the release of Yusak Pakage and Filep Karma. Thousand of Amnesty International members have written letters to the Indonesian government, lobbied members of Congress to pressure Indonesia, made solidarity quilts and flags for the defenders, organized special events and attended scores of protest demonstrations both in front of the Indonesian Embassy and the White House to demand their release.

Indonesia releases 2 Papuan political prisoners
, 8 July 2010


Associated Press, Jayapura, Papua
Indonesian authorities have released two political prisoners jailed for pushing for independence in the vast archipelago's easternmost province of Papua.

Yusak Pakage and Chosmos Yual were freed Wednesday from Doyo Baru prison in Jayapura, Papua's provincial capital, said Nazarudin Bunas, head of the local Law and Human Rights Ministry.

Human Rights Watch welcomed their release but added that more than 45 prisoners remain behind bars for what the group says was the peaceful expression of their political beliefs.

Indonesia is highly sensitive to the separatist struggles in Papua, a former Dutch colony taken over in 1963. The government restricts visits by human rights workers and journalists, and pro-independent activists have been given lengthy prison terms for peacefully expressing their views, organizing rallies or for simply raising separatist flags.

Though Indonesia's sovereignty over Papua was formalized in 1969 through a stage-managed vote, a small, poorly armed separatist movement has battled for independence ever since.

Pakage was sentenced to 10 years in jail in 2005 by a district court, which found him guilty of treason for raising the province's pro-independence Morning Star flag in December 2004.

He was freed after President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono granted him clemency.

Yual, who was sentenced to six years in jail for his role in a violent pro-independence rally in Jayapura in 2006, was released on parole.