Mon, 22 Dec 2003

Convicted Papuans to be brought to Jakarta

Nethy Dharma Somba , The Jakarta Post, Jayapura, Papua

Human rights lawyers in Papua lodged a protest with the local office of the justice and human rights ministry on Sunday for trying to "abduct" 13 people convicted of hoisting separatist flags in Wamena in 2000, and transfer them without proper procedures.

Aloysius Renwarin from ELS-HAM, a legal aid institute in Papua, called the attempt "an abduction" because the move was done without informing the lawyers or family members of the imprisoned Wamena 13.

The 13 convicted flag-raisers, Rev. Obed Komba and a group of his supporters, have been incarcerated at the Wamena Prison for hoisting the separatist flag, The Morning Star, three years ago.

Latifah Anum Siregar, another lawyer for the group, said that the plan to send her clients to Jakarta was accidentally discovered by ELS-HAM, as the 13 were seen at the airport as they were being moved. But there had been no previous communication between the government and the lawyers as to why or where, specifically, that they were being taken.

Aloysius just happened to meet Ishak Tabuni, a member of the local legislative council from Wamena at the airport, and Ishak told him of the transfer to Jakarta, so ELS-HAM intervened and temporarily halted the transfer. The authorities are holding the flag-raisers at the police station while they negotiate with the lawyers.

According to the prison warden accompanying the Wamena 13, the decision to transfer the prisoners to Jakarta was based on a request from the Supreme Court, but when asked he could not produce proof of such a request.

MB Aronggear, head of the local office for the justice and human rights ministry, was in no mood to discuss the move. "This is still in process. Please, don't ask me for a comment," Aronggear told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

Siregar said there was a request from the local administration to transfer the Wamena 13 to Jakarta, but Aronggear had not given his approval.

Anum said the attempt to transfer people without proper procedures could provoke conflict.

Separately, Jayawijaya police chief Sr. Adj. Comr. Agung Makbul said that the plan to move the prisoners to Jakarta was out of his hands.

"The prisoners are the responsibility of the justice office, because they have been convicted," he told the Post.

Meanwhile, Rev. Obed said that he was taken away by security officers as he left the Kemah Injil Church in Wamena. He was not allowed to speak to his family before leaving.