Papua activist gets 3 years for peaceful 'provocation'

Papua activist gets 3 years for peaceful `provocation'

The Jakarta Post
Angela Flassy

Papuan activist Bucthar Tabuni was sentenced on Friday to three years in prison for "provocation" at a pro-independence demonstration last year.

Prosecutors had alleged Bucthar, the chairman of the International Parliamentarians for West Papua (IPWP), committed treason during the demonstration and demanded the district court in Jayapura, Papua, sentence him to 10 years' imprisonment.

Buchtar was arrested in Jayapura in December 2008 for allegedly leading a rally to support the launch of the IPWP in London.

However, a three-member panel of judges presided over by Manungku Prasetyo ruled that Buchtar was not guilty of treason as indicted by the prosecutors under Article 106 of the Criminal Code, because the anti-Indonesia demonstration had been "peaceful".

"The action taken by the defendant was still within the limits of expressing demands over development progress in Papua. It was peaceful, not brutal and not structured," Manungku said in his verdict ending the five-month trial.

With regard to the IPWP launch, the protest was not proven to have been correlated with it, he said. "So we have decided the case did not fulfil an element of treason."

The judges, however, convicted Buchtar for the secondary charge of "provocation" as indicted by prosecutors under Article 160.

Evidence revealed in that during the protest Buchtar had called out to the crowd phrases such as "autonomy!" (to which demonstrators had replied "no!") and "referendum!" (to which they had answered "yes!"), showed a criminal act of provocation had taken place, judges said. "Such words can harm the sense of national unity and the unitary state of Indonesia, hamper development, defy laws and disturb peace among the heterogenous peoples of Papua," Manungku said.

An incriminating factor was also the fact Buchtar was unaware that what he had done could be considered an act of provocation. The final trial, tightly guarded by police, started at around 3 p.m. (local time) and lasted one-and-a-half hours.

Following the announcement of the verdict, Buchtar's team of lawyers, led by Piter Ell, said they were considering whether or not to appeal the verdict.

"It was something not only new for Jayapura District Court but also for Papua.

"Previously there have been no defendants acquitted of treason charges in Papua. But now we see one defendant exonerated from this charge," Piter said.

However, Buchtar was not guilty of provocation, because the rally had been staged peacefully, he added.

"If judges convicted him of provocation, they should also have proven who was affected by his provocation," Piter said.

The protest was held peacefully on Oct. 16, 2008 and was attended by hundreds of Papuans.

The IPWP campaigns for the peaceful independence of West Papua from Indonesia, and for the rights of local indigenous peoples to self-determination. Bucthar's fellow Papuan activist, Sebby Sambom, also present at the pro-independence demonstration is still on trial for similar charges.