Yanto Awerkion gives message to MSG following another trial adjournment
February 6, 2018
Yanto Awerkion, one of West Papua’s most prominent political prisoners has recorded a new video message today in secret, calling upon the leaders of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) to welcome West Papua back as a full MSG member at its leaders summit next week.
Yanto’s trial has now been in court 10 times and has had his trial process adjourned 9 times. Arrested on 30th May 2017 on charges of “treason” just for supporting the West Papuan People’s Petition, he has spent more than 7 months in jail and is facing a possible life sentence. During his court session today, the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) of which Yanto is a leader, stated that the prosecution witnesses once again failed to show up and have failed previously to present any evidence of any wrong doing by Yanto. His next trial will convene on 11th February during the MSG leaders summit.
According to a representative of Papuans Behind Bars: “We are deeply troubled that West Papuans are not only arrested during peaceful protests, but also for leading a prayer at a private property as experienced by Yanto Awerkion. Mr. Awerkion is charged with treason for leading a prayer at his organisation’s secretariat, KNPB”.
“The Indonesian government has clearly violated his rights to freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and liberty. The treason law has been again misused to suppress West Papuans’ civil and political rights discriminately”.
“We, therefore, demand Awerkion’s immediate release and that he would be given compensation from the Indonesian government”.
According to International Human Rights Legal Expert, Melinda Janki (LL.B, BCL (Oxon), LL.M): “The Indonesian government has arrested Yanto Awerkion and charged him with treason. Mr Awerkion has committed no violence. He merely stated that 267,437 people* had signed a petition. Is the Indonesian state so fragile and divided that it cannot bear to hear facts? The petition is an appeal to the UN to respect and implement international law. Why is the Indonesian government so frightened of international law?”.
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Papuans Behind Bars team
Yanto Awerkion was arrested on 30th May when armed Indonesian military, police, special forces and intelligence services raided a compound where the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) were holding a prayer and worship service outside their regional office in Timika. As Deputy Chairperson of the KNPB in Timika (and acting Chairperson for the day); Yanto Awerkion was arrested at 13:30 after taking to the stage and announcing to the crowd that in the greater Bomberai region of West Papua, 267,437 signatures had been collected for the manual petition calling for an internationally supervised vote (a West Papuan independence referendum). The 27-year-old continues to be held in Indonesian police custody.
About West Papuan People’s Petition
The West Papuan People’s Petition represents an incredible effort of mass mobilisation by the people of West Papua and was hand-signed by 1,804,421 people: 1,708,167 indigenous West Papuans and 96,254 Indonesian settlers. The number of indigenous signatories represents an estimated 70.88% of the indigenous population of West Papua according to the latest independent research.
*In the Bomberai region which includes Timika, 267,437 signatures were collected.
According to Dr Jason Macleod, of University of Sydney’s Department of Peace and Conflict Studies, “the petition represents Papuans’ demand for decolonisation and self-determination, their desire to freely and fairly determine their own future,”. The petition was outlawed in all of Indonesia within days of its launch.
Raki Ap, as Spokesperson for the Free West Papua Campaign, told Sydney Criminal Lawyers, “West Papuan political prisoners endure the Indonesian state’s harshest discrimination and brutality. It is a testament to their courage that even behind bars, they continue to campaign for West Papua to be free.”
Prominent supporters of Yanto Awerkion include the author George Monbiot and the former New Zealand Green MP Catherine Delahunty, who told Radio New Zealand that supporting a petition to talk about a referendum for West Papuans was not treasonous. She said,
“This young man is a symbol of the abuse of power and the state sanctioned colonisation and most people don’t even know about it and don’t know where it is.”
The Free West Papua Campaign is mobilising international public support for Yanto Awerkion and pressure upon the Indonesian authorities for his immediate and unconditional release.