Jayapura, Jubi – The Jayapura District Court on Thursday, July 21, 2022, continued the trial of the alleged treason case involving seven Papuans who raised the Morning Star flag at Cenderawasih Sports Center and marched carrying banners with the Morning Star on December 1, 2021.
The seven people being tried are Melvin Yobe (29), Melvin Fernando Waine (25), Devion Tekege (23), Yosep Ernesto Matuan (19), Maksimus Simon Petrus You (18), Lukas Kitok Uropmabin (21), and Ambrosius Fransiskus Elopere (21).
The trial was held at the Abepura Penitentiary, Jayapura City. The Public Prosecutor presented two police officers who arrested Melvin Yobe and his friends, namely Barnabas Ferdinand Simbiak and Juliant Prasetya Rachman.
In his testimony, Barnabas Ferdinand Simbiak said he arrested Melvin Yobe and his friends when they marched in front of the Papua Police Headquarters on December 1, 2021. “I saw seven people. They were carrying the Morning Star flag and banners,” Simbiak said, answering judges’ questions.
Simbiak told that at that time he was at the Integrated Police Service Center (SPKT) Post, which is about 50 meters from the location where the seven people were arrested. Simbiak admitted he did not hear any of the seven defendants shouting. He also said he did not know why they were marching. He and several other police arrested them because they allegedly caused traffic jams and marched without having a permit. “They lined up in the middle of the road, disturbing road users and causing traffic,” he said.
Simbiak and several police officers then took Melvin Yobe and his friends to the SPKT Post. “I headed straight for it and followed by other police members,” he said. Simbiak said the seven people did not resist and obeyed the directions of the police who arrested them. “There was no resistance, and they followed to the SPKT Post. They are very respectful,” he said.
According to Simbiak, the police who arrested Melin Yobe and his friends did not interrogate them. He said that Melvin Yobe and his friends were questioned by higher officers, not by the police who arrested them. “After they were arrested, we did not communicate with them,” said Simbiak.
Simbiak said the Directorate of General Criminal Investigation of the Papua Police came to the SPKT Post, took Melvin Yobe and his friends, and questioned them. “I was not there when they were questioned,” said Simbiak.
Lawyer of the defendants then asked if Simbiak thought Papua would immediately become independent after they raised the Morning Star and marched on December 1, 2021. Simbiak replied that such actions would not instantly free Papua. “No, it doesn’t work like that,” he said.
The lawyer also asked whether this case could be resolved through a restorative justice mechanism. Simbiak said that he was tasked with ensuring that Melvin Yobe and his friends did not reach the center of the city. The procedure actually says Yobe and his friends should have been examined and questioned by the SPKT Post. “If we handled it at that time, maybe it would turn out different,” he said.
The Public Prosecutor also presented Juliant Prasetya Rachman, another police officer who arrested Melvin Yobe and his friends. Juliant is a police member assigned to the Security Intelligence of Papua Police.
Juliant said he saw Melvin Yobe and his friends marching while on his way in public transportation from his house in the Klofkamp Police Dormitory to the Papua Police Headquarters. He went because he would be on guard duty on December 1, 2021. He said that every December 1, the police tried to secure the city because the date is celebrated by Papuan people as independence day. “Every December 1, we are on guard,” he said.
He said he heard the seven defendants shout “Free Papua” and chanted “We are not Red and White [Indonesian Flag], we are the Morning Star”. “I was inside the taxi and I heard them,” Juliant told the jury.
Juliant then got out of the taxi, immediately snatched the Morning Star flag, and handed the flag to one of the policemen who arrested Melvin Yobe and his friends. Juliant said that he did not see Barnabas Ferdinand Simbiak while securing the Morning Star flag. “I saw Simbiak only when he brought the defendants to the SPKT Post. When I snatched the Morning Star flag, there was no Simbiak,” he said.
Juliant said that he took the initiative without an order from anyone to arrest Melvin Yobe and his friends because he saw them carrying the Morning Star flag. Juliant said Melvin Yobe and his friends fought back when he tried to snatch the flag. Juliant said the Morning Star symbolized treason as it was a symbol of an independent Papua or the desire to separate from Indonesia.
However, Juliant did not know the rules prohibiting against flying the Morning Star. “I know the Morning Star symbol is against the state. But I didn’t know there was a rule that prohibits raising the Morning Star,” he said.
Juliant also said he later learned that Melvin Yobe and his friends raised the Morning Star at Cenderawasih Sports Center only from social media posts, such as on Facebook, Tiktok, and Instagram. He only found out about it after capturing Melvin Yobe and his friends.
The defendants’ lawyer again asked whether Juliant thought Papua would immediately become independent after they raised the Morning Star and marched on December 1, 2021. Similar to Simbiak, he answered that Papua would not necessarily become independent because of the actions of the seven defendants.
The panel of judges also gave the opportunity for the seven defendants to question the witnesses of the Public Prosecutor. Maksimus Simon Petrus You denied that their march caused traffic jams. Petrus You asserted that he and his companions marched by the side of the road. Another defendant, Ambrosius Fransiskus Elopere, also denied the witness’ statement that he and his friends resisted. Elopere said they followed the directions of the police who arrested them and entered the Papua Police Headquarters on good terms.
The trial on Thursday was initially scheduled to hear statements from eight witnesses from the Public Prosecutor. However, until 12.48 p.m. local time, there were only two witnesses present. Chairman of the panel of judges RF Tampubolon then closed the trial and stated the trial was postponed until Tuesday, July 26, 2022. The next trial will also take place at the Abepura Penitentiary, with the agenda of hearing the statements of the witnesses from the Public Prosecutor. (*)