The murky fate of treason prisoners in Papua (Part 4)

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

Jayapura, Jubi – Beaten by a drunk warden
Treason convict Melvin Yobe and seven others also experienced intimidation and acts of violence in the Abepura Prison.

Maksimus Simon Petrus You, one of the treason convicts, experienced physical violence while detained at Abepura Prison. The beating incident occurred in the detention cell on July 29, 2022.

That evening, Petrus You returned from worship with other prisoners and was taken back into his cell. “Suddenly one of the officers from room three entered room four, my room,” Petrus You recounted the incident to Jubi on October 15, 2022.

The officer, allegedly under the influence of alcohol, shouted at Petrus You and Devio Tekege from behind the cell door. The officer accused Petrus You and Tekege of smoking marijuana.

“I told him we just went back from worshiping so no, we did not smoke marijuana. The officer instead called another officer and asked him to open the door to our cell,” he said.

The officer entered Petrus You’s cell and hit him, causing his right eye to swollen and his lip injured.

“I smelled alcohol from the officer’s mouth,” Petrus You said.

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It took two weeks for the scars to heal.

Head of Abepura Prison Sulistyo Wibowo said that the beating of Petrus You was carried out by an officer named RM who was under the influence of alcohol. Wibowo said RM had been sanctioned and removed from his duty at Abepura Penitentiary.

“We proposed a transfer of duty to the Papua Regional Office of the Ministry of Law and Human Rights,” Wibowo told Jubi, on October 25, 2022.

Guilty of treason

Melvin Yobe was tried alongside Melvin Fernando Waine, Devio Tekege, Yosep Ernesto Matuan, Maksimus Simon Petrus You, Lukas Kitok Uropmabin, and Ambrosius Fransiskus Elopere. Meanwhile, Zode Hilapok’s trial was postponed due to his illness. He was ordered hospitalization by the panel of judges.

The trial was delayed several times as the Public Prosecutor often failed to present Melvin Yobe and six others in the courtroom. Melvin Yobe and his friends could only follow the trial online from Abepura Prison.

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Melvin Yobe and his friends during a trial at the Abepura Penitentiary. – Jubi/Theo Kelen

Melvin Yobe and his friends complained that they could not listen to the testimonies of the witnesses presented by the Public Prosecutor. The panel of judges, chaired by RF Tampubolon, with members Iriyanto T and Thobias B, had to move the trial to Abepura Prison to ensure that Melvin Yobe and his friends could attend the trial.

During the examination of the defendants on August 4, 2022, Melvin Yobe said that the purpose of their action was solely to convey the message that there was an ongoing conflict in Papua that needed to be addressed and resolved immediately. The raising of the Morning Star flag was to commemorate the independence day of the Papuan nation. He also said the Morning Star flag is also regulated in Law No. 21/2001 on Papua Special Autonomy.

For Melvin Yobe and his friends, by raising the Morning Star, they wanted to show that Papua must be free because Indonesia had taken away the rights of the Papuan people. “By raising the Morning Star flag, we want Papua to be free,” they said.

After raising the Morning Star, Melvin Yobe and his friends then marched to the Papua Legislative Office carrying the Morning Star flag and two banners that had been prepared.

When questioned by the panel of judges, Maksimus Simon Petrus You said that he and his friends marched while chanting “We are not Red and White (Indonesian flag), we are the Morning Star” and “Free Papua”.

Melvin Yobe and his friends also emphasized that their action was peaceful and they did not carry any weapons. “We did not attack the authorities either,” Yobe said.

On August 29, 2022, the panel of judges convicted Melvin Yobe and his six friends of treason. They were sentenced to 10 months in prison. [to be continued]

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