Indonesian Cops Investigate Explosion Outside Papuan Activist’s Family Home

Ronna Nirmala
Jakarta
2021-11-08
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Indonesian Cops Investigate Explosion Outside Papuan Activist’s Family Home Indonesian lawyer and human rights defender Veronica Koman receives the Sir Ronald Wilson Human Rights Award, presented by the Australian Council for International Development, in Sydney, Oct. 23, 2019.
[Photo courtesy of Veronica Koman]

Updated at 6:15 p.m. ET on 2021-11-08

Motorcyclists threw an explosive device at the family home of an Indonesian human rights lawyer who advocates for pro-independence activists in the troubled Papua region even though she has been living in Australia for years, police and rights activists said Monday.

No one was hurt in the blast Sunday outside the Jakarta family home of Veronica Koman, but a note found at the scene demanded her arrest, according to Aswin Siregar, an officer with Densus 88, the Indonesian police’s anti-terrorism unit.

“It can’t be established yet that the object that exploded was a bomb, like those commonly used by terrorist groups,” Aswin told BenarNews.

“(The note) is thought to be a threat to the occupants of the house related to Veronica Koman’s actions,” said Aswin, adding that five potential witnesses had been questioned.

A photo of the note published by online news outlets reads, in part, “we are on a mission to destroy you wherever you are hiding, and those who protect you.”

West Jakarta police chief Ady Wibowo said two people on a motorcycle threw an explosive at the house where her parents live.

“There’s a strong suspicion that it was a firecracker,” he told CNN Indonesia.

Koman has been living in Australia after being targeted by death threats and abuse on social media.

Through her Twitter feed, she has been a source for regular information about the situation in Papua. The province is largely closed off to Western media and information there is tightly controlled by Indonesian authorities.

In 2019, police charged Koman with spreading fake news in connection with a police crackdown on anti-government protests by Papuan students in East Java province in 2019.

Security personnel’s treatment of those Papuan students led to widespread protests in Papua and West Papua provinces in August and September 2019, some of which turned violent. More than 40 people were killed.

During an interview with BenarNews two years ago, Koman, an ethnic Chinese Indonesian, said she had been the target of death and rape threats and as well as racist and misogynistic abuse over social media.

She did not immediately respond to BenarNews requests for comment on Monday.

Human rights groups, meanwhile, urged police to arrest those responsible.

Previous incident

The attack Sunday was the second against Koman’s family in less than a month. On Oct. 24, two people on a motorcycle hung a package on a fence around the house that later burst into flames, activists said.

No one was hurt but activists said the incidents traumatized Koman’s parents.

“The attacks and terror on Veronica Koman’s family confirm the finding that Indonesia is facing a phenomenon of democratic regression which is characterized by increased attacks on activists and human rights defenders,” a group called the Civil Society Coalition said in a statement.

The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS) said the attacks were carefully planned.

“We urge the police to immediately uncover these cases. The government has an obligation to protect human rights defenders,” KontraS legal division leader Andi Muhammad Rezaldy said.

The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) reported at least 206 cases of intimidation against rights activists, from 2015 to 2019.

Indonesian government forces have been accused of engaging in actions against indigenous people in mainly Melanesian Papua, where violence linked to a separatist insurgency has simmered for decades.

Last year, at least 13 Papuan activists and students were convicted for raising Morning Star flags – the symbol of the Papuan independence movement – during pro-referendum rallies in 2019 as part of nationwide protests against racism toward Papuans. They were sentenced to between nine and 11 months in prison on treason charges.

Usman Hamid, the executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia, said that Koman’s work was legitimate, and that she deserved protection.

“What she says is actually factual,” he told a press conference in Jakarta on Monday, according to Indonesian news outlet Tempo. “Of course she must get protection from the state.”

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