Jayapura, Jubi – Merauke District Court in Papua held a pre-trial hearing to judge whether the arrest of 14 West Papua National Committee (KNPB) activists in Merauke last month was legal or not.
On Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, the court had Dr. Nur Asmarani, a criminal law expert, on the stand. According to a release issued by Coalition of Human Rights Lawyers of Papua, Nur told the court the arrest was illegal.
A member of the coalition, Emanuel Gobay, said in the release, made available on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021, that Nur, a scholar at Universitas Cenderawasih, said the arrest violated the Criminal Law Procedures Code (KUHAP).
"When an arrest, investigation, examination, search or confiscation of evidence is done not according to the Law No. 8/1981 on Criminal Law Procedures, the action is illegal," she said as quoted by the press release.
The pre-trial had begun since Jan. 19, 2021, presided by a sole judge, Gang Hariyudo Prakoso. The pre-trial was filed against Merauke Police as requested by the lawyer coalition, which represented 13 out of 14 arrested activists.
Nur also told the court that an arrest that involved beatings against the arrested could be categorized as torture. "If an arrest is proven to be not according to the procedure, the judge has a mandate to free the arrested," said Nur as quoted in the release.
The activists' lawyers obtained testimonies from the activists' family members who claimed they did not get any arrest warrant on Dec. 13, the day of the arrest. Gobay said the family received a warrant on Dec. 15 after they came to Merauke Police to ask for the warrant.
A lawyer from Cenderawasih Legal Aid Institute (PBHC), Weltermans Tahulending, said the witnesses presented by the plaintiff said the the arrest was done without the presence of nearby residents, the head of neighborhood unit, or the local leader. He said one witness from Merauke Police admitted that the warrant was made after the arrest.
On Dec. 13 last year, Merauke Police arrested 14 KNPB activists in their headquarters. Gobay claimed that the activists were beaten using rattan. "All the KNPB activists had their body beaten using rattan. Four of them were told to lie down on the ground, and then they were brought to Merauke Police precinct," said Gobay on Dec. 21, 2020.
He said the police continued the beating in the Merauke Police precinct. One of them, identified as Kristian Yandun, had his head bleeding after the beating while Michael Bteop had his back bleeding.
The activists who were arrested and allegedly beaten were Charles Sraun (38), Petrus Paulus Kontremko (32), Kristian Yandun (38), Robertus Landa (23), Michael Beteop (24), Elias Kmur (38), Marianus Anyum (25), Kristian. M. Anggunop (24), Emanuel T. Omba (24), Petrus Kutey (27), Linus Pasim (26), Salerius Kamogou (24), Petrus Koweng (28), and Yohanes Yawon (23).
Gobay said all the activists' back sustained injuries. The lawyer had called on Papua Police to investigate the Merauke Police officers involved in the alleged beating. He also had requested National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas HAM) to investigate the allegation.
Merauke Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Untung Sangaji said as quoted by Cenderawasih Pos daily in December that the activists were accused of treason. He claimed that the arrested had tried several times and he had an evidence called "yellow book", containing, Untung claimed, a complete structure of a new state, complete with the name of the president "South Papua".
Earlier, Catholic priest Pius Manu regretted Untung's statement as quoted in local news outlets. Untung told journalists in Hotel Halogen in Merauke on Dec. 14 that next time he found activists planning treason, he would "shoot their legs". Father Pius criticized Untung's statement, questioning his motive. Pius compared Untung with his predecessors who forged a friendly relationship with religious figures and residents.
In November 2020, Merauke Police arrested 54 participants of a meeting to evaluate special autonomy organized by Papuan People's Council (MRP). The police released the 54 the next day, but they also claimed they had a "yellow book" among the evidence of treason.