Melburnians Call for Release of the 77 Papuan and Malukan Political Prisoners held in Indonesian Prisons
Demonstrations were held around the globe, including Edinburgh, London, The Hague, Auckland, Wellington and Melbourne, on Wednesday April 2, calling for the immediate and unconditional release of the political Papuan and Malukan prisoners.
Ian Okoka, a Papuan independence activist, residing in Melbourne said, “Papuans are loosing their right to freely express themselves and many have fled to the jungle for fear of being put in jail. Papuans who are seeking independence for Papua through peaceful means are facing threats of arrest and violent intimidation by security forces.”
The demonstration presents to the people of Melbourne the more than 70 Papuan political prisoners currently detained in Indonesia calling on the Indonesian government to respect freedom of expression in the Provinces of Papua and Maluku.
According to data from Papuans Behind Bars, the number of political arrests in Papua Province more than doubled in 2013 as compared with the previous year, and reports of torture and ill-treatment of political detainees have also increased.
“The trend in arrests points to a significant deterioration in the environment for freedom of expression in West Papua. Often those arrested are charged with treason or incitement which can carry lengthy prison sentences,” said Mr Okoka.
“A new pattern is now emerging where peaceful activists are charged with criminal violence, backed by fabricated evidence and unreliable testimony” Mr Okoka said.
While many Malukan and Papuan political prisoners are in jail as a result of their peaceful political activities, others are targeted arbitrarily.
Journalists and lawyers face coercion, intimidation and violence from Indonesian security forces who enjoy wide impunity.
West Papua still remains largely closed to foreign journalists, NGOs and international organisations, making it difficult to accurately report on violations as they take place.