A court in Indonesia’s Papua province convicted and sentenced a Polish national Thursday to five years in prison after finding him guilty of treason for aiding separatist activists in the troubled region.
Jakub Fabian Skrzypski is the first foreigner to be convicted of treason in Indonesia, said one of his lawyers, Latifah Anum Siregar.
Simon Magal, a pro-independence activist with whom Skrzypski communicated, received a four-year jail term. The two stood trial together at the Wamena District Court on charges of treason.
“Jakub is disappointed with the verdict, because he has insisted he is innocent all along,” Latifah said, adding that her client would appeal. Prosecutors had sought a 10-year sentence.
Latifah said a mobile phone text conversation where Magal asked about obtaining weapons from Poland for Papuan rebels and Skrzypski’s response, “I’ll see what I can find,” was a basis for the treason charge.
“The communication between Jakub and Simon was considered as evidence of initial steps toward treason,” she told BenarNews.
In addition, Skrzypski was accused of meeting with Sebby Sanbom, a spokesman for the West Papuan National Liberation Army, an armed faction of the separatist movement, in neighboring Papua New Guinea, Latifah said.
The defense attorney said testimony did not provide evidence that Skrzypski committed a treasonous act, adding the legal process against him seemed forced and stemmed from unfounded fear of foreigners.
The court, however, did not see it that way.
“The charges of treason have been proven legally and convincingly,” Wamena District Court Chief Judge Yajid said, according to Agence France-Presse.
Latifah said the indictment cited Skrzypski’s meetings with activists of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), a non-violent group seeking a referendum on self-determination for Papua, as evidence of his intention to take part in a treasonous act.
Prosecutor Febiana Wilma Sorbu had quoted a civil servant as testifying that KNPB was an unregistered and illegal organization.
“If the KNPB is a banned organization in Indonesia, why was only Jakub arrested for meeting them?” Latifah asked.
Magal’s attorney, Aloysius Renwarin, also said there was no evidence that his client had committed treason.
“The eight witnesses presented at the hearings did not explain that Simon was involved in illegal transactions,” the attorney said, adding Magal would appeal to the High Court. He asked that Magal be transferred to the provincial capital Jayapura or Timika because the detention facility at the Jayawijaya police headquarters was overcrowded.
Skrzypski was arrested in August 2018 while Simon was arrested the next month.
Sorbu said the prosecution team had not decided whether to appeal for a stricter sentence.
In January, when visited by a BenarNews reporter at Jayawijaya police jail, 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.
“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.
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.
Ahmad Syamsudin in Jakarta contributed to this report.