Pacific Media Watch

18 February 2012

WEST PAPUA: Trial of Papuan pro-independence leaders seen as media disaster for Indonesia

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The accused "president" of West Papua, Forkorus Yaboisembut, at Jayapura District Court.He is one of the five Papuans on trial. Photo: Jakarta Globe

SYDNEY (Radio NZ International / Pacific Media Watch): A leading researcher on West Papua says the trial of five Papuan leaders for treason has hallmarks of being another public relations disaster for Indonesia.

The five were arrested last October at the Third Papuan People’s Congress where they raised the outlawed Papuan Morning Star flag and declared independence.

Earlier this week, the panel of judges rejected a bid by the defendants’ legal team to have the case dismissed on the grounds that the five men are entitled to freedom of expression under Indonesian law.

Dr Jim Elmslie, founding coordinator of Sydney University’s West Papua Project, says security forces are pressuring the judges to deliver harsh sentences.

“But the previous case where people were sentenced to long terms purely for non-violent political actions like raising a flag, they’ve been taken up by people all over the world. And it doesn’t make Indonesia look good to have political prisoners who are merely expressing their political convictions.”

The trial continues today with witnesses for the prosecution to be heard, most of whom are members of the police force involved in the deadly crackdown on October’s peaceful gathering.
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Pacific Media Watch

PMC's media monitoring service

Pacific Media Watch is compiled for the Pacific Media Centre as a regional media freedom and educational resource by a network of journalists, students, stringers and commentators. (cc) Creative Commons