Extraordinary scenes occurred at Abepura prison in West Papua on Saturday night when heavily armed police stormed the cells of non-violent Papuan leaders currently on trial for treason.
The heavy handed security sweep was carried out between 9-10 pm and involved three truckloads of armed Dalmas anti-riot paramilitary police; two truckloads of Brimob police, and a detachment of fully armed prison anti-riot officers.
The cells of several West Papuan political prisoners were turned over in the sweep, and all prisoners possessions were removed, including pens, paper, files, books, letters, plates, drinking glasses, cutlery knives, guitars, and music tapes, including lawyer-client privileged communications and defence notes.
Mobile phones were not found however, according to sources at the prison.
It is believed the targets were five leaders of the Third Papuan People’s Congress that peacefully declared independence from Indonesia on October 19, sparking a brutal and bloody crackdown by Indonesian occupation forces.
Forkorus Yaboisembut and Edison Waromi – the President and Prime Minister respectively – of the Federated Republic of West Papua, together with Selpius Bobbi, Dominikus Sorabut, and Agus Kraar are all on trial for treason charges. The hearing on Friday had to be suspended after the prisoners refused to return into the courtroom due to concerns of the conduct of witness cross-examinations.
The trial was adjourned until tomorrow.
Prisoner split up?
Reliable sources close to the accused congress leaders have told West Papua Media that the raids related to rumours circulating that the five defendants would be split up and moved to separate prisons away from Papua.
These rumours have been fuelled by unknown parties, however regular prison transfers are a common tactic by the Indonesian state on Papuan political prisoners. The Indonesian Attorney-General and the Prosecutors’ Office have repeatedly stated publicly that the trial and prisoners would be moved from Papua if any unrest occurs, but there is significant local Papuan resistance to such a move.
Local observers also have suggested that the bizarre raids had occurred after police objected to the defendants conduct in court and sought to reassert the “authority of state” by behaving unpredictably.
According to a series of urgent text messages sent to various advocates, the head of the prison at Abepura opened up the political prisoners section to normal criminals allowing them to mix freely. This is often a tactic used by prison authorities to effect violence on prisoners without prison guards having to commit the abuse personally.
The political prisoners source told West Papua Media that in a disturbingly strange move, the prison chief then invited the political prisoners to sit without resistance with in a room together with hardened murderers, robbers and rapists, many of whom are from other parts of Indonesia.
Prison authorities did not reply to any requests for clarification from West Papua Media.