An Indonesian court has jailed a Polish man for five years after he was convicted of treason for meeting with West Papuan rebels.
Rights groups are decrying the sentence, passed down on Thursday, as part of a crackdown by Indonesia on access to the troubled Papua region.
But for Jakub Skrzypski, a self-described tourist, Thursday’s judgement by the Wamena City Court was devastating.
Indonesian prosecutors may have been disappointed with the five-year sentence — they had demanded twice that in court.
Speaking briefly to reporters from behind bars, he said his sentence was ridiculous and politically motivated.
“I wasn’t caught red-handed. I didn’t have any forbidden materials on me. They tried to sentence me, to judge me, only because of their assumptions of what I [was] supposed to think, of what I was supposed to try to do, that’s it. Nothing more.”
His co-defendant, Papuan student Simon Magal, was jailed for four years for allegedly communicating with Skrzypski.
The pair were linked by police and prosecutors to a plot to sell arms to the West Papua Liberation Army, a rebel group waging war with the Indonesian state.
Skrzypski has admitted to meeting with the Liberation Army, but he and his lawyer insist he was a curious traveller who never broke the law.
Lawyer Latifah Anum Siregar says she rejects all demands from the police and prosecutor and will appeal the judges’ decision in a Papuan High Court.
Ms Siregar says the decision was a shock to Skrzypski.
“He’s very stressed, depressed, about the verdict.”
Skrzypski was detained after hearing his sentence and Ms Siregar said his phone use was restricted.
But an Indonesian researcher based in Papua, Hipolitus Wangge, spoke with Skrzypski after the decision and says the Pole is hopeful.
“When I talked with him he was fine, he was filled with spirit. And I still think that his case will draw much attention.”
Mr Wangge says right before he spoke with Skrzypski, he was calling his country’s embassy in Jakarta for assistance.
A spokesperson for Poland’s Foreign Ministry told the Associated Press that every effort is being made to help him.
Other observers believe the sentence is a damning indictment not just on the defendants, but on freedoms in Papua.
Andreas Harsono, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, says it will deter foreigners and especially journalists from travelling to the province.
“It raises a much bigger question, and much more troubling question: What is going on? What is Indonesia hiding in West Papua?”
A police spokesperson in Papua declined to comment on the sentence.
Latifah Anum Siregar says she expects to launch her appeal in the next three days.
On Thursday, Skrzypski said there were issues with translations in the trial and the presenting of possessions that weren’t his as evidence.
This is Mackenzie Smith. RNZ