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The Indonesian human rights advocacy group TAPOL has denounced the sentencing by the district court of Central Jakarta which found six political prisoners guilty of treason yesterday and demanded their immediate release.

Paulus Suryanta Ginting, Ambrosius Mulait, Ariana Elopere, Dano Tabuni, and Charles Kossay were sentenced to nine months imprisonment, whereas Isay Wenda was sentenced to eight months imprisonment.

The six were arrested over their participation in a peaceful protest outside the State Palace in Jakarta on 28 August 2019, during which they flew Morning Star flags and chanted “Free West Papua”.

READ MORE: 63 political prisoners in Indonesia file urgent appeals amid virus pandemic

The first of their trials commenced on 15 December 2019. The prosecutors were seeking one year and five months imprisonment for each, except Isay Wenda, for whom prosecutors sought 10 months.

Suryanta, popularly known as Surya Anta, is the first non-Papuan Indonesian to be detained on treason charges over the West Papua self-determination cause.

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The sentences include jail time that they have already served, including eight months for Isay Wenda with a release on 2 May 2020. The other five will still have to spend another month behind bars.

“One month is too long to be serving prison time in this critical pandemic period, as it is anticipated that Indonesia will reach its Covid-19 peak in the coming months,” said TAPOL in a statement.

Other West Papuan political prisoners charged with treason arrested during the uprising are on trial: seven in Balikpapan, four in Manokwari, four in Sorong, and one in Jayapura.

Twenty three political prisoners detained in Fakfak and 11 others in Sorong who were arrested in the lead up to 1 December 2019 and charged with treason are still awaiting trial.

The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has stated that political prisoners should be among the first to be released amid the pandemic.

Human rights lawyers Veronica Koman and Jennifer Robinson, with the support of TAPOL, have submitted a joint urgent appeal to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and UN Special Rapporteurs on 15 April 2020.

“We therefore reiterate the urgency of releasing all political prisoners currently detained in overcrowded prisons where it is impossible to practice physical distancing,” said TAPOL.

“To organise or participate in a protest and to wave flags are internationally protected activities as freedom of expression and assembly are guaranteed under international law”

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