Police hunt four covid-suspect Papuan prisoners after escape from hospital

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Indonesian police confront a West Papuan during one of widespread anti-racism protests in Papua in August 2019. Image: Whens Tebay/RNZ

Indonesian police in West Papua say four prisoners isolated for suspected covid-19 infection have escaped from Bhayangkara Police Hospital and are still at large.

A number of prisoners, including Papuan independence activists, had recently been transferred to the hospital in Papua’s capital Jayapura.

The escaped prisoners broke down the bars in their hospital room windows on Wednesday, according to police spokesperson Senior Commander A.M. Kamal.

However, Kamal has confirmed that Basoka Logo, the head of the political bureau of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, remains in the hospital.

Kamal said Logo was being held for alleged forgery of official documents.

However, sources said he had been held prisoner since offering himself to police as a guarantee for the release of hundreds of Papuan students detained after widespread anti-racism protests last August.

The Liberation Movement has questioned the police version of events regarding prisoners transferred to prison among the ongoing threat of covid-19, with the number of cases of the virus surging in Indonesia.

Release political prisoners plea
The movement claimed Indonesian authorities had not taken up a recommendation by the UN more than two months ago for the release of political prisoners from the country’s overcrowded prisons.

While a number of general prisoners were released, Papuans who have been charged with treason-related charges after last year’s protests were not among them.

Human Rights Watch yesterday urged Indonesian authorities to drop all charges and release seven Papuan activists and students on trial for their involvement in the anti-racism protests in Jayapura last August.

Prosecutors have sought prison sentences of between five and 17 years for the defendants.

Meanwhile, with police still pursuing the inmates who reportedly escaped, the families of the four prisoners have been asked to co-operate with authorities to have them recaptured.

This article is republished by the Pacific Media Centre under a partnership agreement with RNZ.

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