The trial of a Polish man accused of aiding separatist rebels in Indonesia’s easternmost Papua province began Monday after the defendant was compelled to attend, his lawyer said.
Jakub Fabian Skrzypski, 39, and Simon Magal, 30, an alleged Papuan separatist, appeared in Wamena District Court after Skrzypski reportedly refused to come to court last week. A December hearing was adjourned after the Polish national requested a translator.
“Jakub finally went to court after being forced to do so by the public prosecutor,” one of his lawyers, Latifah Anum Siregar, told BenarNews.
Chief prosecutor Ricarda Arsenius said the defendant had been “persuaded” to come, not forced. “Initially he objected. But after we persuaded and gave an explanation, Jakub wanted to be present in court,” he said.
Reading from a 14-page indictment, prosecutors said Skrzypski first visited Papua in 2007 as a tourist, but with an agenda of meeting armed separatists and to “convey the Free Papua issue to the European world in the form of journals or his writing.”
Skrzypski and Magal, his co-defendant, often communicated over the Messenger application and the Polish national came to Papua a second time in mid-2018, the indictment said.
“Defendent Jakub Fabian Skrzypski went to Wamena and met with some people in the headquarters of the TNP OPM [in] Puncak Jaya,” Ricarda said, using an acronym armed Papuan separatists.
“On 15 July 2018, defendant Simon Magal asked defendant Jakub, ‘can West Papuan fighters work with Poland on procurement of weapons?’ and Jakub answered, ‘I know, I am trying to meet something.’”
The defendants are expected to respond to the charges at the next court session on Jan. 21.
Skrzypski, arrested on Aug. 26, 2018, in Wamena, is the first foreigner indicted on a treason charge in Papua, according to Siregar.
“Article 106 of the Criminal Code is an allegation against those suspected of committing treason. And article 55 of the Indonesian Criminal Code is known as ‘participation,’ meaning that the crime was carried out jointly,” she said, explaining criminal code articles cited in the indictment.
If found guilty, the two could face up to 20 years in prison, or a life sentence.
Two French journalists, Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat, were investigated for treason in 2014 but eventually sentenced to two and one-half months in prison for misusing a tourist visa.
Foreign media access is restricted in Papua and West Papua, Indonesia’s two easternmost provinces, which make up about one-fifth of Indonesia’s land mass. The region is one of Indonesia’s poorest, with low literacy rates and high rates of infant and maternal mortality.
In early December, a Papuan separatist group claimed responsibility for an attack that left 19 construction workers dead. The victims had been building roads and bridges in remote Nduga Regency.
Jakub Fabian Skrzypski (right), and Simon Magal are seen in the holding cell at Wamena District Court in Jayawijaya, Papua, Jan. 14, 2019. (Courtesy of Latifah Anum Siregar)
When visited by a BenarNews reporter at Jayawijaya police jail last week, Skrzypski denied being involved in arms smuggling or propaganda on behalf of Papuan rebels.
“I am not a blogger or filmmaker, journalist or activists. I am not a military trainer and I do not have that background. I am not an arms dealer,” Skrzypski told BenarNews on Jan. 9.
He complained of poor conditions in detention and said police had little evidence against him.
“The cells are very small and the bathroom is not taken care of. The water is filthy. The detention room is cold and there are mosquitos,” he said.
During interrogation, police kept showing a photo of him in Switzerland and one of him shaking hands with someone as evidence, he said.
“What do those photos prove? Are they trying to trap me for some political reason, their own ambition, or personal gain?” he asked.