Human rights defenders have called on Indonesian authorities to release a West Papuan and a Polish citizen charged with treason.
The two men are in jail awaiting trial in the capital of Papua province, Jayapura, after being arrested separately in two Highlands towns in the past fortnight.
Jakub Skrzypski, a 39-year Polish citizen visiting Papua as a tourist, was arrested in Wamena in late August on suspicion of being a journalist. Police allege Jakub Skrzypski met with members of an armed pro-independence Papuan group, and was involved in an ammunition deal.
In connection with his case, a 29-year old West Papuan student, Simon Magal, was arrested several days later in Timika. The Indonesian Human Rights Campaign, or TAPOL, said charging Mr Magal with treason for having met and communicated on
Facebook with Mr Skrzypski was excessive.
TAPOL said that Mr Magal, who was preparing to travel to Australia for post-graduate studies when he was arrested, had only minimal contact with Mr Skrzypski and no capacity to carry out the weapons negotiations he is accused of.
The NGO said that Mr Magal had been dragged in by the actions of Mr Skrzypski, “to face superfluous consequences”.
“Our findings show that Mr Skrzypski is merely a tourist who may have been acting recklessly and irresponsibly in a conflict area,” TAPOL’s press release said.
TAPOL said Mr Skrzypski has been unfairly charged, as he is merely a tourist with a penchant for travelling to dangerous regions around the world and may have been acting naively in a conflict zone.
It said the Polish man had previously travelled widely in Indonesia.
“Close friends of Mr. Skrzypski that we interviewed describe him as an avid ‘extreme’ traveller with a passion for other cultures, languages, and humanitarian issues.”
A Papua Police spokesman Sr. Commander AM Kamal, said police found evidence that showed the two men had been in communication since 2016 to discuss the procurement of weapons for the West Papua Liberation Army.
The Jakarta Post reported Kamal saying police found several photos and videos on Mr Skrzypski’s phone depicting him posing with members of the armed group while holding a firearm.
He said based on the evidence, police suspected Skrzypski had been covertly training the Liberation Army on how to use firearms.
However, TAPOL’s sources indicate that the photos in question include images of Mr Skrzypski holding guns at an indoor sport shooting range in Vaud, Switzerland, where he had been living since 2008.
“As an ‘extreme’ traveller, the West Papua Liberation Army is not the first armed independence group that he has met for the sake of adventure. He had also visited the Kurdish Liberation Army in the troubled Qandil mountains region in Iraq in Spring 2017, before the liberation of Mosul from ISIS,” TAPOL said.
The UK-based human rights organisation said Mr Mr Skrzypski’s intention to learn about West Papua’s struggle is “easily misinterpreted by the Indonesian government”.
Two other West Papuans were arrested for possession of ammunition at a similar time and location as Mr Skrzypski’s arrest. Papuan human rights workers suggest the two separate cases have been confused.
TAPOL has urged Indonesia to ensure, in the event that Mr Skrzypski is prosecuted, to ensure he is afforded a fair trial.
It has also called on Indonesia’s government to “stop using highly problematic treason charges that have long been used in excess to both intimidate peaceful dissent and to criminalise rights to the freedom of expression”.