Papuan independence activistFilep Karma tasted freedom today after being wrongfully jailed for more than a decade for simply waving an independence flag at a political ceremony in 2004, Amnesty International said.
“Filep Karma spent more than a decade of his life in prison when he shouldn’t even have been imprisoned one day. It was an outrageous travesty of justice and he should never have been brought to justice, ”said Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s Campaigns Director for South East Asia.
“Every Indonesian should have the right to express himself freely and to assemble freely, but these rights have been cruelly denied to Filep Karma. “
Filep Karma spent over a decade of his life in prison when he shouldn’t even have been in jail one day. It was a scandalous parody of justice.
Josef Benedict, Amnesty International Campaigns Director for South East Asia
Amnesty International has long viewed Filep Karma as a prisoner of conscience and campaigned for his release. In 2011, supporters of the organization in more than 80 countries sent him over 65,000 messages of support as part of his “Write for Rights” campaign and called for his unconditional release.
Filep Karma has consistently refused to accept a lesser sentence offered by the government, saying he would only accept full release and should never have been jailed in the first place.
The organization believes he was arbitrarily arrested for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and assembly by raising a flag and attending a political event.
“We hope this will be the first step towards the release of all prisoners of conscience detained for their peaceful political expression in Papua and elsewhere in Indonesia,” said Josef Benedict.
Amnesty International hopes that Filep Karma’s release marks the abandonment of repressive tactics frequently used by the authorities to silence peaceful dissent in the Papuan region. In addition to the release of all prisoners of conscience, the Indonesian authorities must put in place a mechanism to combat the culture of impunity in Papua and deal with current and past cases of human rights violations by the security forces.
Filep Karma was among some 200 people who took part in a peaceful ceremony in Abepura, in the province of Papua, on December 1, 2004. In commemoration of the Papuan declaration of independence in 1962, the flag of the morning star – a forbidden symbol of Papuan independence – was hoisted. The police then advanced into the crowd, hitting people with batons. Filep Karma was subsequently arrested and charged with “rebellion” under Articles 106 and 110 of the Indonesian Criminal Code. He was convicted on May 26, 2005 and sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment.
During his visit to the provinces of Papua and West Papua in May, President Joko Widodo took steps that appeared to mark an abandonment of the repressive policies of past administrations. These include the release of five political activists, who were jailed after unfair trials based on forced confessions following torture or other ill-treatment, and the pledge to grant clemency or amnesty to other political activists detained throughout the country.
He also announced that the authorities were lifting restrictions on foreign journalists, allowing them access to Papua, to travel freely and to cover the region.