Amnesty International calls on Police to release political activists arrested in Maluku

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Police arrest five activists, one of whom is an 80-year-old retired teacher, Izak Siahaja, on Saturday 29 June 2019. (photo: Maluku Police District Doc.)

IO, Jakarta – The Indonesian National Police (Polri) must order the Maluku Regional Police to immediately and unconditionally release five political activists who were arrested and detained in Pulau Haruku Subdistrict, South Maluku, just because they raised the Benang Raja flag, a symbol of independence of the South Maluku Republic (RMS) in a house.

The police arrested the five activists, one of whom is an 80-year-old retired teacher, Izak Siahaja, on Saturday 29 June 2019. To this day they are still detained and have been named as suspects on charges of wanting to “commit treason” just for putting up flags RMS in a room in Izak’s house.

The other four activists are Izak Vely Siahaja / Werinussa’s wife who is a 70-year-old priest, Marcus Noja (42), Harjohn Noja (34) and Basten Noja (30).  They are all threatened with treason under Articles 106 and 110 of the Criminal Code.

“Displaying a flag to show political expression is not a form of crime, especially for political activists who carry out their actions peacefully, including those who support independence; they have the right to express their political views. 

“The police must immediately and unconditionally release them and guarantee freedom of expression for people in Maluku,” said Amnesty International Indonesia senior researcher Papang Hidayat.

According to information obtained by Amnesty International Indonesia, the five suspects were detained at Ambon Police Station and Lease Islands and not provided legal counsel.

Amnesty International considers the five Maluku political activists as prisoners of conscience who are imprisoned solely for expressing their political views peacefully.  Therefore they must be immediately released without conditions.

“As long as the five people are still detained, the police in Maluku must guarantee that there is no practice of torture or other ill-treatment against them.  The police must also guarantee that they get access to lawyers – chosen by them – to get legal assistance.  Every citizen has the right to get an attorney’s assistance while undergoing a legal process,” said Papang.

Amnesty International welcomed the release of at least 60 conscientious prisoners from Papua and Maluku during the administration of Joko Widodo in his first period as president.  In May 2015, President Jokowi gave clemency to five Papuan political activists and promised to grant clemency or amnesty to other activists.  In November 2015, pro-independence Papuan activist Filep Karma was released after spending more than a decade in prison for his peaceful political expression.  In December 2018, a prisoner of conscience from Maluku who served a 15-year sentence for treason, Johan Teterissa, was released after serving more than 11 years in prison.  Others were released after serving all the imprisonment sentenced against them unjustly or died in prison.  In recent years Amnesty International noted that the number of political activists in Papua and Maluku have been prosecuted with treason articles decreasing.

“We believe that the right to freedom of expression is also included to advocate for a political solution,” concluded Papang.  (dsy)