Trial of Papuans over pro-independence rally begins
Five Papuan activists are on trial for raising an outlawed flag and declaring independence in eastern Indonesia.
The activists were part of a peaceful pro-independence rally in Papua province on 19 October 2011.
Rights groups have criticised the trial and called for it to be cancelled.
Papua became part of Indonesia in 1969 after a controversial election many Papuans say was a sham. A low-level war for independence has been waged in the province ever since.
“The defendants jointly tried to commit treason with the intention of allowing the country or part of the country to fall into the hands of the enemy,” AFP news agency quoted Judge Jack L. Oktovianus as saying at the Jayapura district court.
“They acted together to declare Papua an independent region, which constitutes an act of treason,” he added.
The Papuan activists rejected the court proceedings, saying that they had not done anything wrong.
They said they did not accept that Papua was part of Indonesia, therefore their declaration of independence was legal and not a violation of Indonesian law, reports BBC Indonesia correspondent Karishma Vaswani.
New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called for the trial to be cancelled, pointing out that the rally last year was peaceful and that it was police officers who shot into the crowd.
Three people were killed and hundreds more were arrested during the rally.
“It’s appalling that a modern democratic nation like Indonesia continues to lock up people for organising a demonstration and expressing controversial views,” HRW’s Asia Deputy Director Elaine Pearson said in a statement.
Lawyers from the Human Rights Law Centre and the International Lawyers for West Papua are urging the Australian Government to speak out against the Papuan treason trials.
They say they want foreign minister Kevin Rudd to publicly condem the trials, which began this week in Jayapura.
Five Papuan activists were charged with criminal offences after they were arrested at a peaceful assembly at the Third Papuan People’s Congress last year.
They were among hundred of people arrested after Indonesian police and military shut down the gathering.
dont hold your breath waiting for kevin to help ya..hes only interested in arab nations..
as i keep saying.. watch Indonesia..look out for “sandals”..
the west papuans are treated like scum..