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RNZ Pacific

One of eight West Papuan activists who raised the banned Morning Star flag of independence in a protest last December has died.

Zode Hilapok’s death was confirmed by a relative, Christianus Dogopia, who said that since being detained, Hilapok’s health had been deteriorating.

Dogopia said that on 12 December 2021 his relative began experiencing symptoms of illness, feeling fatigued and sleepy.

At that time, Hilapok lost weight dramatically.

“At that time he ate only rice, without side dishes, or with vegetables but in small portions. Otherwise, his stomach hurt or he would become nauseated. His bowel movements were bloody,” Dogopia said.

Hilapok and seven friends, all aged between 18 and 29, were arrested by police on December 1, 2021, when they marched in front of the Papua police headquarters carrying Morning Star flags and banners.

The flag is considered a symbol of the West Papua struggle for independence and has been strictly banned by the Indonesian authorities with jail sentences of up to 15 years for offenders.

The treason case against Zode Hilapok was never tried because he was ill.

He died at Yowari Hospital on October 22.

In August, the other seven were found guilty of treason and sentenced to 10 months in prison from the day they were detained.

They were released in September.

Hilapok’s death comes after a West Papuan leader, Buchtar Tabuni, was arrested by Indonesian police.

The West Papua Morning Star flag
The banned West Papua Morning Star flag . . . iconic symbol of resistance flown globally in protests in support of self-determination and independence. Image: RNZ Pacific/AFP
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