Jayapura, Jubi – Seven students who raised the Morning Star flag at Cenderawasih Sport Center, Jayapura on December 1, 2021, were released from Abepura Penitentiary on Tuesday, September 27, 2022, at 10:32 Papua time. They were released after serving 10 months in prison.
The seven students are Melvin Yobe (29), Melvin Fernando Waine (25), Devio Tekege (23), Yosep Ernesto Matuan (19), Maksimus Simon Petrus You (18), Lukas Kitok Uropmabin (21), and Ambrosius Fransiskus Elopere (21).
Upon their release, the students were immediately greeted by their families and lawyers. Their release was also closely guarded by police officers. A number of policemen were seen holding firearms.
Melvin Yobe was grateful that he and his friends were able to survive ten months of detention in good health. They also expressed their gratitude to everyone who has supported them so far.
Melvin Yobe said he would continue his fight for truth and justice in Papua. He said the struggle must continue because injustice continues to occur in Papua.
Helmi, the lawyer of the seven students, said it was time for them to be released. "The verdict was in August 2022 while they were arrested and detained in December 2021. Today is exactly ten months after their detention in prison so today they are free," Helmi told Jubi
Helmi hoped that in the future, allegations against the Morning Star fliers could be resolved through non-court mechanisms. "Papua Special Autonomy Law No. 2/2021 stated that Papua has distinctive characteristics in the form of a regional symbol and its own flag, the Morning Star. So raising the Morning Star should not be a problem as long as it is interpreted as a cultural symbol," he said.
Previously, on August 28, the panel of judges at the Jayapura District Court found the seven Morning Star raisers guilty of treason. They were each sentenced to 10 months in prison and required to pay compensation for state losses worth Rp 5,000.
However, the panel of judges stipulated that the sentence is fully deducted by the detention period that has been served. Therefore in September, Melvin Yobe and his friends are declared free for they have served 10 months in prison.
In the verdict, the panel of judges stated that the defendants' actions of marching while shouting "Free Papua" and "We are not Red and White (Indonesian flag)" had fulfilled the elements of treason, as well as their action of unfurling banners with the words "Self Determination For West Papua, Stop West Papua Militarism" and "Indonesia Immediately Open Access for the UN Human Rights Commission Investigation Team to West Papua".
The ruling also stated that the defendants' call for the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) did not need to involve raising the Morning Star flag and marching while shouting "Free Papua".
The panel of judges then returned the evidence of a koteka (male sheath), three noken (traditional woven bag), two bead necklaces, four jeans, five shirts, a jacket, two cellphone chargers, and three cellphones to the defendants.
However, some evidence namely a slingshot, two Morning Star flags and a banner were confiscated for destruction. (*)