World’s eyes on Indonesia as Political Prisoner Yanto Awerkion is tried for ‘Treason’ over Support For West Papua Independence Petition – 9th January 2018

January 3, 2018


Images of Yanto 

Video of Yanto (with subtitles)

The world’s eyes are on Indonesia on 9th January 2018 as they try Political Prisoner Yanto Awerkion, 27, in Timika Court in the town of Timika, for “Makar” or Treason.

His crime? Supporting a petition calling for West Papuan independence. Treason carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years. Yanto has been locked away in prison for 8 months awaiting trial. He was unable to see his wife and new born baby at Christmas.

It is horrible that this young person can be charged with treason for helping with a petition. It is a travesty of justice and we need to keep supporting him!
Former MP Catherine Delahunty New Zealand.

If you would like to join our action to Free Yanto and call the local police station, please follow link here urgently.

On 30th May 2017, West Papuan people held a peaceful prayer gathering in the town of Timika and as local Deputy Chairperson of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), Yanto Awerkion took to the stage to announce to the eager crowd the incredible news that in their region of Bomberai, 267,437 signatures were collected. As soon as he took to the stage, the Indonesian troops raided the compound. They were fully armed and made up of the Indonesian military, police, Detatchment 88 (“Anti Terror” troops), Kopassus (Special Troops) and Intelligence Services.  Yanto was arrested and has remained behind bars ever since.

This petition, which was quickly outlawed by the Indonesian government, with threats of arrest and torture for anyone caught signing it, was run in West Papua between May-July 2017. Despite brutal intimidation, an unprecedented 1.8 million West Papuans (70% of the indigenous population) hand-signed the petition unanimously calling for the United Nations to bring an internationally monitored independence referendum to West Papua.

Meanwhile over 500,000 indigenous West Papuans are estimated to have been killed at the hands of the Indonesian military and police over the last 60 years. Alarmingly, the rate of genocide continues to climb.

“Unfortunately, the situation is getting worse not better,” says Benny Wenda, himself a former political prisoner and newly elected Chairman of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP). Mr. Wenda was granted political asylum by the UK in 2003 and resides with his family in Oxford.

The latest ICP report (released in July 2017) indicates that the years of 2015 and 2016 were characterized by a significant aggravation of the human rights situation in West Papua compared to previous year.

“We, the people of West Papua, call for Yanto Awerkion’s unconditional & immediate release” says Mr. Wenda.

But the situation on the ground remains critical…

“While our leaders are being locked away, Indonesia continues its steady and quiet genocide of the West Papuan indigenous people”.

“The goal is for the Indonesian government is to ethnically cleanse away the indigenous people of West Papua” says Mr. Wenda. As Juan Méndez, Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide to UN Secretary General Kofi Anan, has stated, West Papuans are “at risk of extinction”.

“This has been aided by a total media blackout” says Mr. Wenda. “No one is aware of what is going on on a daily basis”.

“One hope has been the onset of social media, through which more and more human rights abuses are reaching the outside world via Facebook and being posted on the Free West Papua website, and via human rights groups and international media” he says.

“The Indonesian Government boasts that they have cleaned their act up in terms of human rights abuses. But unfortunately the out-of-sight out-of-mind situation in West Papua has got far worse and is now at crisis point”.

“The United Nations cannot stand back and watch any longer. They must go back and repair the damage caused by turning a blind eye to American imperialism which handed West Papua on a plate to Indonesia 50 years ago”.


CONTACT Office of the Free West Papua Campaign (, or call Kate Lewis (+44 7500833706) to arrange interviews or for further information.

[1] Papuans Behind Bars website;

[2] Report from International Coalition for West Papua;

[3] Copy of report on recent military sweeps from human rights group KONTRAS




 Notes to Editors:-

About Indonesia’s occupation of West Papua

Indonesia has illegally occupied West Papua since 1969, destroying its environment, plundering its gold, copper and natural resources, and killing the indigenous people.

Historically, the Dutch government recognised that West Papua was geographically, ethnically and culturally different to Indonesia and so began preparing West Papua for its independence throughout the 1950s. At the end of 1961, West Papua held a Congress at which its people declared their aspirations for independence, and raised their flag – the Morning Star. Weeks later Indonesia invaded. In 1962, the United States, and the Netherlands, offered up West Papua as a prize to Indonesia, as a way of staving them off aligning themselves with Russia during the cold war. An act of self-determination was promised before 1970, and in 1969 under UN supervision, “the Act of Free Choice” was held where just 1,026 people (less than 0.2% of the population) were rounded up at Indonesian gunpoint and forced to declare their incorporation in to Indonesia. It was a “hoax vote” and widely called the “Act of NO Choice”.

Since then over 500,000 Papuans have been killed. The people of West Papua continue to call for the United Nations to review this illegal vote and for the UN to facilitate an internationally recognised Independence referendum for the people of West Papua. Firstly, the UN must send a special representative to investigate the human rights abuses, and the UN must put West Papua back on the Decolonisation Committee agenda, in preparation for the vote. It is these two requests that were signed by 1.8 million West Papuan people in the West Papuan People’s Petition which Yanto Awerkion was helping to organise, and has been imprisoned for.

US Gold-mining company Freeport had already started looting West Papua for gold 2 years before the “hoax vote”. In August 2017, the Indonesian government took a controlling stake in Freeport. West Papua accounts for 30% of the Indonesia’s GDP.

Up to 30 political prisoners who support a Free West Papua remain imprisoned at the hands of the Indonesians. [1] During 2016-2017 there were reports of between 5,500 & 8,000 arrests, including many children. [2] On the 21st December Indonesian military and police shot 5 West Papuan people; 3 of which were children, in a sweeping military operation. [3] Indonesia denies these took place, despite mounting evidence. These situations are increasing, and continue to avoid international media attention due to a strict and brutal media blackout.This petition, which was quickly outlawed by the Indonesian government, with threats of arrest and torture for anyone caught signing it, was run in West Papua between May-July 2017. Despite brutal intimidation, an unprecedented 1.8 million West Papuans (70% of the indigenous population) hand-signed the petition unanimously calling for the United Nations to bring an internationally monitored independence referendum to West Papua.


About Benny Wenda

Benny Wenda is the leader of the West Papuan Independence movement and on 1st December 2017 was elected as Chairperson of its leading body, the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP). In 2002, he was arrested by the Indonesian police for leading his people towards independence. He was tortured and was facing a potential 25-year jail sentence when he managed to escape. He fled to the United Kingdom as a refugee and was granted political asylum in 2003.

In 2004, he founded the Free West Papua Campaign, an international organisation dedicated to raising awareness and support for West Papua’s freedom through self-determination. He lobbies on behalf of his people at the United Nations and around the world. In 2013 and 2014, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Benny Wenda holds a firm and deep, enduring conviction that one day his people will be free and hope that people around the world will hear the voices of his people and become aware, spread the word and take action to help end the suffering in West Papua.

The Free West Papua Campaign led by Mr. Wenda has been supported by Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Noam Chomsky. The governments of Vanuatu, Tonga, Tuvalu, Solomon Islands, Palau, Marshall Islands, Nauru and St Vincent and the Grenadines have all supported West Papua’s right to self-determination. In December 2017, Vanuatu hosted West Papuans including Mr. Wenda for the ULMWP summit. At the same time a global flag raising took place in over 40 countries where people raised the West Papuan flag in support of West Papua’s independence. Indication that there is a global awareness growing on the situation.