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Papuan political prisoner sentenced for treason

Radio New Zealand International - March 14, 2018

A member of the pro-independence West Papua National Committee has been given a ten-month jail sentence for treason by an Indonesian court.

Yanto Awerkion was arrested last May in Timika because of his involvement with a petition calling for West Papuan independence from Indonesia.

After 17 court appearances, trial delays and over nine months in jail, the political prisoner has finally been sentenced. With time already served, he's due to be released by the end of the month.

Awerkion's incarceration for six months before trial had become the subject of international outrage. Human rights adovcates had reported that after being denied adequate food and kept in poor conditions, the 27-year old's health had deteriorated.

The deputy chairman of the Committee's Timika chapter, Awerkion was taken in by police after speaking at an event in Timika in promotion of the petition.

He had reportedly led a prayer at the event at the Committee's secretariat and stated that hundreds of thousands of people had signed the petition.

Several times, Awerkion's trial hearings were postponed or cancelled due to a lack of witnesses or evidence. Furthermore, his sentencing had been delayed in January when the judge did not appear for court.

Awerkion was facing a potential 15 year jail sentence for helping promote the petition. But rights advocates suggest international pressure played a role in extracting a more lenient sentence from the Indonesian justice system.

Organisers of the West Papuan People's Petition, say it was signed by over 1.8 million West Papuans, representing over 70 percent the indigenous population of Indonesia's Papua region.

It was presented by the current chairman of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, Benny Wenda, on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly last September.

The petition seeks West Papua's reinscription to the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation, and an internationally supervised vote on independence.

Indonesia's government describes the petition as a "hoax", and has disputed the veracity of its numbers.

Source: http://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/352478/papuan-political-prisoner-sentenced-for-treason