Papuan Student Activist's Treason Trial Opens as 300 Supporters Rally

The Jakarta Post, Nethy Dharma Somba

Around 300 supporters of a Papuan student activist facing trial
for treason staged a rally at Jayapura District Court on
Wednesday.

They demanded the court free Buchtar Tabuni, 29, deputy
secretary of the Central Mountain Papua Indonesia Students
Alliance (AMPTPI) of all charges.

The protesters, led by Victor Yeimo, unfurled banners and
shouted "Free Buchtar. None of the charges could implicate him."

The protests outside failed to disrupt the courtroom
proceedings, where prosecutor Maskel Rambolangi read out the
charges against the defendant.

Officers from the Jayapura Police's riot unit and the Papua
Police's Mobile Brigade were on hand to provide security at the
trial presided over by judge Manungku Prasetyo.

Buchtar was accompanied at the hearing by 25 of the 53 lawyers
listed as his legal advisers.

AMPTPI secretary-general Mar-kus Haluk told reporters the rally
was aimed at overseeing the treason trial, to ensure the judges
were impartial in arbitrating the case.

"In principle, Buchtar is not guilty of committing treason. He
was only conveying his aspirations. Why was he accused of
treason?" he said.

When Buchtar was arrested during a protest at the Waena Expo
complex on Oct. 16 last year, Markus said he was just conveying
his aspirations and the crowd was crying out for independence,
referendum and a national dialogue, which was not new to the
government and security forces in Indonesia, because Papuans
frequently express them each time they hold demonstrations.

"We even shouted the same words in front of the Presidential
Palace in Jakarta, but why was Buchtar arrested for expressing
them and later accused of treason?" Markus said.

He added his group would continue monitoring the case so it
could be tried fairly and peacefully.

"We don't wish to intervene; we want to actions that are against
the law," he said.

Buchtar was arrested by police in Sentani on Dec. 3 last year,
more than two months after he led the protest at the Waena Expo
in Jayapura, which authorities deemed as subversive.

If found guilty, Buchtar, who is also accused of instigation and
resisting arrest, could face 20 years in prison.