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RNZ Pacific

Seven people have been found guilty of “treason” after raising the banned Morning Star flag in West Papua, a Melanesian region of Indonesia.

In the Jayapura District Court this week, the seven were each jailed for 10 months and fined.

The flag is considered a symbol of the West Papua struggle for independence and has been strictly barred by the Indonesian authorities.

The group, one aged 19 and the others in their 20s, had raised the flag at the Cenderawasih Sports Centre, and although they were not carrying weapons they were convicted of treason.

The Jubi website reported the judge said raising the Morning Star flag and marching while shouting “Free Papua” and “We are not Red and White, we are the Morning Star“, amounted to treason.

And the act of unfurling banners with the words “Self Determination For West Papua, Stop West Papua Militarism” and “Indonesia Immediately Open Access for the UN Human Rights Commission Investigation Team to West Papua” was also considered treason.

‘Intention of separating’
The verdict read “the defendants already have the intention of separating Papua and West Papua from the territory of Indonesia. The defendants have committed the beginning of treason as stipulated in Article 87 of the Criminal Code”.

After the trial, the defendant’s lawyer Emanuel Gobay told Jubi “we firmly reject” the court’s verdict of treason.

During the trial Gobay said no expert witnesses had been presented to explain their perspectives on the charges.

According to Gobay, the conclusions drawn by the panel of judges seemed subjective because there was no information from expert witnesses.

“We question the basis on which the panel of judges concluded the treason. It is as if the panel of judges acted as experts, interpreting and concluding themselves without relying on expert testimony,” Gobay said.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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