Jayapura, Jubi – On Thursday, May 11, 2023, the Jayapura District Court carried out a follow-up trial for the case of alleged treason involving three students from Jayapura University of Science and Technology (USTJ). During the trial, the prosecution called three witnesses who testified that the three accused individuals were apprehended for holding the Morning Star flag while protesting.
Yoseph Ernesto Matuan, Devio Tekege, and Ambrosius Fransiskus Elopere have been accused of committing treason after participating in a free speech on the campus on November 10, 2022. During the event, they displayed the Morning Star flag while protesting against the dialogue plan proposed by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) to solve Papua problems.
The trial was presided over by a panel of judges led by chief judge Zaka Talpatty, with member judges Donald Everly Malubaya and Gracely Novendra Manuhutu.
Witnesses presented by the public prosecutor were Heram Police chief Adj. Comr. Frengky Rumbiak, Abepura Police personnel La Jamuali, and Vice Rector III for Student Affairs of USTJ Isak Rumbarar.
In his testimony, Frengky Rumbiak stated that on November 10, 2022, he was informed by his subordinates about a speech accompanied by the display of the Morning Star flag taking place on the USTJ Campus. At 11 a.m. Papua time, he went to the campus and saw 11 individuals participating in the demonstration. They were giving speeches, distributing pamphlets, and waving two Morning Star flags while shouting “Papua” that were responded to with cries of “Merdeka” (Free).
According to Rumbiak’s testimony, Devio Tekege and his friends were apprehended for conducting a protest where they displayed the Morning Star flag. Rumbiak said the act of raising the Morning Star flag was completely forbidden by the government, and therefore, the protesters were detained.
Rumbiak said at that time he offered to meet USTJ vice rector and the protesting students at the Abepura Police Station to resolve the matter peacefully, but the students refused. During negotiations, stones were thrown from the campus gate, and members of the Jayapura City Police allegedly fired tear gas.
“I heard gunshots from outside the campus. The police must have fired. What I saw were shots of tear gas. The situation became chaotic with the throwing of stones and firing of tear gas from outside the campus,” he said.
When asked by the defense team of the three defendants, Rumbiak acknowledged that the protest with the Morning Star flag did not automatically lead to Papua’s independence and did not cause the government in Papua to collapse.
The next witness is La Jamuali, a member of the Abepura Police. He reported that he was requested to assist the Heram Police on November 10, 2022. At the site of the students’ protest, he observed a Morning Star flag, and the police subsequently confiscated pamphlets and flags from the demonstrators.
La Jamuali said he and the Heram Police Chief had a negotiation with the vice rector and the student protesters. However, in the midst of it, La Jamuali witnessed tear gas being abruptly fired from the campus gate.
Finally, La Jamuali mentioned that the Morning Star was prohibited by the government because it was regarded as a symbol of the Free Papua Organization. Nevertheless, La Jamuali added that rallies, speeches, and the display of the Morning Star flag did not automatically result in Papua’s independence.
Another witness, Isak Rumbarar, testified that the students held free speech without making a notification letter to the rectorate. He said the USTJ has a mechanism for students who want to hold free speech on campus, and that if there are any security and order issues, students should directly report to Abepura Police.
Rumbarar claimed the university had never prohibited students from holding free speech as long as they did not disturb the lectures. He also mentioned that he contacted the Papua Police chief after witnessing the protesters carrying a Morning Star flag, which, according to him, was not under the university’s authority but the jurisdiction of law enforcement officials.
Rumbarar said that the university would handle situations where students were drunk or fighting, but dealing with the Morning Star flag was beyond their authority.
He added that negotiations between the police, himself, and the students took place but immediately turned into chaos. Rumbarar mentioned that during the commotion, the students closed the campus fence when they saw other police officers who were about to enter the campus. Rumbarar tried to open the fence but was unsuccessful as the police used water gas to disperse the protesters. (*)