Responding to the latest delay in the trial of prisoners of conscience Pieter Likumahua, Alexsander Workala, and Benjamin Naene, who have all been detained since April 2021 for possessing a flag and documents relating to the unrecognized Republic of South Maluku, Amnesty International Indonesia Deputy Director Wirya Adiwena said:
“Pieter, Alexsander, and Benjamin are detained and charged simply for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression. No one should be charged with a crime for possessing objects and writings about a particular political view or for peacefully espousing that political view.”
“Since they were first arrested on 7 and 8 April 2021, Pieter, Alexsander, and Benjamin’s detention has been extended seven times, a blatant violation of their right to liberty, particularly in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet, they have not committed any internationally recognizable crime. This latest delay in their trial, officially due to the prosecutors’ lack of preparation, has prolonged their detention, a violation of their right to be tried without undue delay.”
“We renew our call for the immediate and unconditional release of Pieter, Alexsander, and Benjamin and all other prisoners of conscience in the provinces of Maluku and Papua. Justice must be upheld in this case without delay.”
On 7 April, soldiers raided the house of Alexsander Workala in West Seram regency, Maluku province and confiscated a book, several documents, and the “Benang Raja”, a flag meant to represent the Republic of South Maluku (RMS), which is not recognized by the Indonesian government. Alexsander was taken by troops to the West Seram Police. At the police station, Alexsander admitted to being an RMS activist and said that he got the flag from Pieter Likumahua.
The next day, 8 April, the police came to Pieter’s house to question him about Alexsander. After one night of interrogation, Pieter was named a suspect and detained. Benjamin Naene, who accompanied Pieter to the police station, was also detained after he admitted to being an RMS activist. Alexsander, Pieter, and Benjamin were charged with treason.
After multiple extensions of their detention, the trial started on 26 August 2021. But their detention and trial were delayed again for an additional week on 17 November 2021 because the prosecutors had not finished preparing the sentencing demands.
The Indonesian authorities have used different “treason” (makar) provisions in the criminal code, mainly Articles 106 and 110, to prosecute dozens of peaceful pro-independence political activists in Maluku and Papua simply for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
As of November 2021, at least eight people in Papua and 11 in Maluku are currently in detention under treason charges merely for peacefully exercising their human rights.
Amnesty International does not take any position on the political status of any province or region in Indonesia, or any other state, including calls for independence. However, the organization believes that the right to freedom of expression also includes expression of political nature.