The murky fate of treason prisoners in Papua (Part 3)

treason
Melvin Yobe and his friends took a group photo before undergoing a treason trial at the Jayapura District Court. - Doc. Melvin Yobe

Jayapura, Jubi – Apart from feeling that his health condition was neglected, treason convict Melvin Yobe also felt that he and the other seven Papuan activists and treason convicts were discriminated against in the prison. Yobe claimed to have been deprived of food for 12 days because he lost his food container.

“It happened at the end of April 2022. I counted there were twelve days they did not give me food from the kitchen,” he said.

Yobe said his plate was lost after breakfast. At that time, he washed it and put it in its usual place in the cell. Yobe went out for activities outside the room. By lunchtime, he returned to his cell to retrieve the plate but it had gone.

“Each plate is written with each detainee’s name. I reported my missing plate to the guard, they said, ‘It’s Saturday. Just get a basin. We’ll replace the new plate on Monday,” he said.

Yobe followed the advice and queued for food with the basin. That afternoon, he received his usual meal and the kitchen staff did not question Yobe for using the basin.

Towards dinner, Yobe again reported his missing plate as there had been a change of guard duty. Unfortunately, the officer this time did not allow Yobe to queue for food with a basin. Instead, the officer told Yobe to return to his room, thus he did not get his dinner.

The next day, he reported again and stood in line for his meal. He said he was ignored by the staff and did not get any food.

Yobe tried to restrain himself. For 12 days, he shared food with fellow inmates. Sometimes he even fasted. “My friends shared the food. But sometimes I focus on prayer and fasting,” he said.

For breakfast, the prisoners get a ration of porridge or cassava and corn. Lunch is rice with eggplant, salted fish, tofu, tempeh and chicken. While at night the menu is fish or chicken. “We most often get salted fish,” he said.

Eventually, Yobe’s patience ran out and he made a Facebook post about the food ration in Abepura Prison. “We conveyed to social media that there is discrimination in Abepura Prison. From there, we all got new plates,” he said.

Coordinator of Litigation of the Coalition for Law Enforcement and Human Rights in Papua, Emanuel Gobay posing for a photo with Zode Hilapok (second from left), one of the flag raisers of the Morning Star flag who is sick and on Tuesday (26/4/2022) was referred to RSUD Dok II Jayapura.

Yobe was not the only treason convict who was ignored. Zode Hilapok, one of Yobe’s friends who participated in raising the Morning Star flag at the Cenderawasih Sports Center on December 1, 2021, had his tuberculosis disease worsened when he was detained in Abepura Prison.

Due to his illness, the panel of judges of the Jayapura District Court on May 17, 2022, ordered that Hilapok’s case file be separated from Melvin Yobe and six other defendants.

Zode Hilapok’s trial was suspended because he underwent treatment at Jayapura Dok 2 Hospital. However, Hilapok’s health did not improve.

Head of Abepura Prison Sulistyo Wibowo denied that the penitentiary discriminated against Melvin Yobe and ignored his health. Wibowo said all prisoners were treated equally. He said all detainees received food rations.

Wibowo denied Yobe’s statement that he was not given food for 12 days. According to Wibowo, if Yobe was not given food for that long, he might not survive in the prison.

“That is not true. If he is not fed for 12 days, he could die,” Wibowo told Jubi on Tuesday, October 25, 2022.

Wibowo said his office always pays attention to the health of detainees and prisoners. Any sick prisoner, he said, would be placed in a special block and handled by a doctor.

“We separate those who are patients of infectious disease from the others. We attempt to serve the rights of detainees and prisoners. There must be shortcomings on our side but we are always improving,” Sulistyo said.  [to be continued]

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