Rahmad Nasution, Jakarta – Indonesia's National Police spokesman, Inspector General Argo Yuwono, dismissed a claim that seven Papuan youths, being tried in connection with a treason case at the Balikpapan District Court in East Kalimantan Province, are political prisoners.
Tendering a clarification to this end, Yuwono told journalists in Jakarta on Wednesday that Papuan youngsters were purely criminals, who had allegedly incited a string of deadly violence and rioting in Papua Province, especially in the areas of Jayapura, last year.
As a consequence of their provocative acts, violence and riots erupted in the easternmost province, resulting in several locals incurring material losses and resulting in destruction to personal property, he stated.
Hence, Yuwono rebuked the rumors of Papuan youths tried at the Balikpapan District Court being political prisoners circulated by small demonstrating groups among members of the public in their recent rallies, calling them completely baseless and groundless.
"They are obviously criminals, and their court proceedings have met the legal basis in accordance with what they did," Yuwono stated, adding that the youths' trial was not considered to be a political matter since it was purely related to their acts of crime.
The seven defendants are Ferry Kombo, Alex Gobay, Hengku Hilapok, Irwanus Urobmabin, Buchtar Tabuni, Steven Itlay, and Agus Kossay. The public prosecutors have demanded to extend the prison term of the defendants, from five to 17 years.
ANTARA noted that Papua and West Papua had come under the radar of both Indonesian and foreign media after a spate of violence broke out in several parts of these two Indonesian provinces in August and September 2019.
On August 28, 2019, violence erupted in Deiyai District, some 500 kilometers away from Jayapura, resulting in the deaths of an army soldier and two civilians.
The indigenous Papuan residents of Jayapura again protested on August 29, as they vented out their ire over the alleged racist behavior against their Papuan compatriots in Surabaya, East Java, but their rally then took a violent turn.
On September 23, a deadly riot had erupted in Wamena, the capital city of Jayawijaya District, Papua Province, which claimed the lives of 33 civilians, including a senior medical doctor, who had served the native Papuans for 15 years.
The Indonesian police accused Benny Wenda, a member of the West Papua movement separatist group, of involvement in the spread of fake news to instigate native Papuans.