Papuan ‘Political Prisoners’ on Hunger Strike After Denied Access to Lawyers

By webadmin on 04:03 pm Dec 12, 2010
Category Archive

Nivell Rayda

New York-based Human Rights Watch has demanded an explanation for the transfer
of two Papuan “political prisoners” from Jayapura’s notorious Abepura Prison to
local police headquarter, saying the men should be able to contest the arrest
and see their families.


Filep Karma, 51, and Buchtar Tabuni, 31, both
serving jail terms for, respectively, treason and inciting hatred toward the
government, were transferred on Dec. 6 three days after a prisoner was shot and
killed in his hideout after a prison break.


Both men were accused of inciting a
subsequent riot in Abepura after news of the killing reached inmates and
then arrested. They have men denied access to their lawyers and are on a hunger
strike in protest against the death.

Elaine Pearson, deputy director of HRW’s Asia
division, said that police’s refusal violated the United Nations Body of
Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or
Imprisonment, which stipulates that prisoners must be allowed to consult their
legal council without delay or censorship.

“Prisoners have rights too, and ignoring those rights is no way to celebrate
Human Rights Day,” Pearson said. “The authorities should explain why Filep
Karma and Buchtar Tabuni have been thrown in a police lock-up and denied access
to lawyers.”

Nazaruddin Burnas, head of the Papua office of the Ministry of Justice and
Human Rights confirmed that Karma and Tabuni were under investigation for their alleged roles in the riot.

“Once police conclude their investigation and if they find nothing against them,
they will be returned to Abepura,” he said.

Ridha Saleh, chairman of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM),
said that he had also been denied access to Karma and Tabuni.

“Police told us that we should contact
prison officials, which we have done. But they still wouldn’t let us in,” he

Ridha demanded police grant both men access to legal representation and their


Cynthia Warwe, a close friend of Karma,
said both men had refused food for several days in protest following the death
of prisoner Heron Wetipo. 

“I haven’t been able to see them, so I am
gravely concerned about their health and well-being,” she said.

Jayapura Police Chief Adjutant Chief Comr. Imam Setiawan said they
believed Hiron and five other escapees were armed when they raided the hideout. 

One other prisoner was arrested and four
others escaped.


The incident is the fourth reported breakout
from Abepura this year. In May, 18 prisoners took advantage of a brawl between
prison guards to make their getaway.

A month later, 26 inmates escaped after guards failed to show up for work over
a labor dispute. In October, two more fled.

According to HRW, Karma is six years into a 15-year sentence for treason following a Papuan independence rally.

Buchtar Tabuni, a leader of the West Papua National
Committee, was jailed for three years for organizing protests against the shooting of his relative,
Opinus Tabuni.