Papuan Protesters on Trial for Attacking Police

Papuan Protesters on Trial for Attacking Police

Jakarta globe
Christian Motte

Charges were filed on Thursday against 17 Papuans arrested during an initially peaceful pro-independence rally that degenerated into violence in the Papua town of Nabire just prior to the April 9 legislative elections.

Most of those charged were students arrested for attacking and vandalizing a police vehicle, while one of the accused, a housewife, was charged with possession of a small Morning Star flag, an outlawed separatist symbol.

Thousands of people took part in a pro-independence rally in Papua on April 3, calling for a boycott of the legislative elections.

The rally was also held to support the establishment of the International Lawyers for West Papua, an international pressure group for the Papua cause based in the United States.

Two Papua Police officers attempted to calm the crowd, but were instead mobbed and their vehicle vandalized. The protesters also attempted to storm trucks carrying heavily armed Mobile Brigade (Brimob) officers, who responded by opening fire.

Further enraged, the crowd began pelting police with projectiles, including arrows, and despite the sustained gunfire kept on attacking.

Dozens sustained gunfire injuries. At least nine people were treated for gunshot wounds in the local hospital. One police officer was hit in the stomach with an arrow.

The trial will resume next Thursday to hear the defendants’ arguments.

Police would not comment on Thursday’s proceedings.

Following mounting pro-independence sentiments aired in the run-up to the legislative elections, police in the troubled province have since called for reinforcements to help safeguard the July 8 presidential election.

Local discontent has been fuelled by the alleged siphoning of the region’s natural riches by the central government, leaving little for the region, as well as widespread human rights abuse by government security forces.

The government attempted to curb pro-independence sentiments by according broad special autonomy for Papua in 2001, giving it a greater share in the revenue from its natural resources as well as enhancing locals’ say in decision-making in the region