Indonesian police charge 8 Papuan youths with ‘treason’ over flying Morning Star

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Papuan students protest on Ambon
Papuan students wearing Morning Star flag colours on their tees in Ambon return home after a rally marking "Independence Day" on December 1. The rally was broken up by police. Image: Istimewa

By Dhias Suwandi in Jayapura

Eight youths have been declared suspects on charges of makar (treason, subversion, rebellion) for flying the banned Papuan independence flag Morning Star at the Cenderawasih Sports Centre in the capital Jayapura this week on December 1.

The Morning Star is a symbol used as a flag by the Free Papua Organisation (OPM) and by most civil society organisations.

They have been identified by their initials MSY, YM, MY, MK, BM, FK, MP and MW — most of them university students.

Flag-raising protests across the world were staged in solidarity with West Papuan calls for self-determination.

The flag-raising commemorations marked the 60th anniversary of West Papua’s declaration of independence from Dutch colonial rule in 1961.

The Cenderawasih Sports Centre flag-raising incident took place on Wednesday afternoon. Prior to holding the action, on November 30, the eight youths held a meeting in the vicinity of Asmara Maro, claimed police reports.

The meeting was allegedly chaired by MY alias M who acted as the leader of the action and the flag raiser. MY also made the flag and the banner later carried by the suspects.

Parliamentary march planned
After flying the flag above the Cendrawasih Sports Centre (GOR), the youths had planned to march to the Papua Regional House of Representatives (DPRD).

The banned Morning Star flag flies above Cenderawasih Sports Centre
The banned Morning Star flag flies above Cenderawasih Sports Centre building in Jayapura, Papua, on “independence day” December 1. Image: Antara News

Papua regional police public relations division head Senior Commissioner AM Kamal explained that seven of the youths were tasked with flying the flag and marching towards the Papua regional police headquarters (Mapolda) while carrying a banner with the Morning Star drawn on it.

The eighth person meanwhile was tasked with documenting the action and spreading it on social media.

The eight have been charged under Article 106 of the Criminal Code (KUHP) in conjunction with Article 110 of the KUHP in conjunction with Article 87 of the KUHP on “plotting to commit crimes against state security”.

“Currently the eight suspects are being held at the Papua Mapolda detention centre for further legal processing,” said Kamal.

Amnesty International criticism
On Friday, Amnesty International criticised the arrests, among 34 detentions this week of Papuan protesters, as well as 19 injuries sustained at demonstrations elsewhere in Indonesia.

“No one should be detained simply for peacefully expressing their political opinions,” said Amnesty’s Indonesia director Usman Hamid, news agency reports said.

Police did not immediately respond to media requests for comment on Amnesty’s statement.

In June 2020, Indonesia sentenced to prison seven Papuans for treason, while Papuan independence figure Filep Karma spent 11 years in prison after raising the banned flag publicly. He was released in 2015.

In Ambon, Maluku, Beritabeta reports that a demonstration by scores of Papuan students marking Independence Day ended in chaos after it was forcibly broken up by police.

The Papuan students, who are undergoing their studies in Ambon, refused to accept the police actions and fought back.

The police finally succeeded in forcing the demonstrators back, who were wearing clothing and accessories with the Morning Star flag on them.

Ambon and the Ambon islands municipal police public relations division head, Second Police Inspector Izaac Leatemia, told journalists that the demonstration was broken up because the protesters did not have a permit from police.

Attacked by vigilantes
In the Balinese provincial capital of Denpasar, a protest by the Bali City Committee Papua Student Alliance (AMP-KKB) and the Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua (FRI-WP) ended in a clash with a vigilante group called the Nusantara Garuda Patriots (PGN), reports Detik.com.

The AMP-KKB said that 12 of its members were injured during the clash.

“Based on our data from the AMP there were 12 of our comrades (who suffered injuries). Some were kicked by the PGN, and then there were comrades who were hit by rocks,”, said AMP-KKB chairperson Yesaya Gobay.

Translated by James Balowski for IndoLeft News. The original title of the article was “Kibarkan Bendera Bintang Kejora di Sebelah Polda Papua, 8 Pemuda di Jayapura Jadi Tersangka Makar”.

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