Seven Morning Star raisers sentenced to 10 months in prison for treason

Morning Star
The trial for reading the verdict of the 7 Morning Star casters at the Jayapura District Court, Monday (29/8/2022). – Jubi/Theo Kelen

Jayapura, Jubi – The Jayapura District Court on Monday, August 29, 2022, declared the seven people who raised the Morning Star flag at Cenderawasih Sports Center guilty of treason. They were each sentenced to 10 months in prison, and required to pay Rp 5,000 in compensation for state losses.

The seven convicts are Melvin Yobe (29), Melvin Fernando Waine (25), Devio Tekege (23), Yosep Ernesto Matuan (19), Maksimus Simon Petrus You (18), Lukas Kitok Uropmabin (21) and Ambrosius Fransiskus Elopere (21).

Although Melvin Yobe and his friends raised the Morning Star flag peacefully and did not carry weapons, they were convicted of treason nonetheless.

The trial was led by chief judge RF Tampubolon, with members Mathius and Wempy W Duka. The judges stated that the defendant’s actions of raising the Morning Star flag and marching to the Papuan Legislative Council while shouting “Free Papua” and “We are not Red and White, we are the Morning Star” have fulfilled the elements of treason, or violating Article 106 paragraph (1) of the Criminal Code jo. Article 55 paragraph (1) of the Criminal Code.

Moreover, the act of unfurling banners with the sentence “Self Determination For West Papua, Stop West Papua Militarism” and “Indonesia Immediately Open Access for the UN Human Rights Commission Investigation Team to West Papua” was also considered to fulfil the elements of treason.

“The defendants already have the intention of separating Papua and West Papua from the territory of Indonesia. The defendants have committed the beginning of treason as stipulated in Article 87 of the Criminal Code,” Tampubolon said, reading out the verdict.

The verdict also stated that raising the Morning Star flag, marching with the Morning Star flag, chanting “Free Papua” and “We are not Red and White, we are the Morning Star” were not part of free speech.

The call for the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (KKR) to resolve the Papuan problem, the Court said, did not have to involve raising the Morning Star flag and marching while shouting “Free Papua” and  “We are not Red and White, we are the Morning Star”.

“The judges are of the opinion that a team from the Papuan People’s Assembly, the Papuan Legislative Council, traditional leaders, student leaders, and women leaders are legit to urge the central government to immediately form a KKR,” said Tampubolon.

After the trial, the defendant’s lawyer Emanuel Gobay of the Papua Law Enforcement and Human Rights Coalition said he rejected the Court’s verdict that Melvin Yobe and his friends were proven guilty of treason. “We firmly reject this,” Gobay told Jubi.

Gobay argued that during the trial, no expert witnesses were presented to explain their perspectives on the charges. According to Gobay, the conclusions drawn by the panel of judges seemed subjective because there was no information from expert witnesses.

“We question the basis on which the panel of judges concluded the treason. It is as if the panel of judges acted as experts, interpreting and concluding themselves without relying on expert testimony,” he said.

Gobay was adamant that Melvin Yobe and his friends’ action was to commemorate a historic birthday for Papuans, and a call to the reconstruction of Papua’s history by establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission as mandated by Papua Special Autonomy Law. He was sure their actions were part of the freedom of expression guaranteed by the 1945 Constitution.

“The testimony of the witnesses has shown that the defendants were exercising freedom of expression. And the witnesses said that the actions did not necessarily free Papua from Indonesia. But the panel of judges did not consider this,” he said.

Furthermore, Gobay objected that the panel of judges used consideration of previous decisions on the treason case of raising the flag of the South Maluku Republic (RMS) in Ambon. According to Gobay, the Ambon and Papua cases are different because Papua has the Papua Special Autonomy Law.

“Again, it only proves that the judges were biased and trying to find reasons to justify the treason article. Therefore, we reject the verdict against Melvin Yobe and his friends,” he said.

Gobay considered that the verdict did not fulfil the sense of justice. However, Gobay left the decision to appeal or accept the verdict to Melvin Yobe and his friends. “We will coordinate with the defendants. They have the right to decide whether to appeal or not. We have seven days to state our position,” said Gobay. (*)

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