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RNZ Pacific

Seven people have been found guilty of ‘treason’ after they lifted the ban the morning star flag in West Papua, a Melanesian region of Indonesia.

In Jayapura District Court this week, the seven were each jailed for 10 months and fined.

The flag is considered a symbol of West Papua’s struggle for independence and has been strictly banned by the Indonesian authorities.

The group, one aged 19 and the others in their twenties, had hoisted the flag at the Cenderawasih Sports Center, and although they were unarmed, they were found guilty of treason.

The jubi the website reported that the judge said he raised the the morning star flag and parading shouting “Free Papua” and “We are not red and white, we are the the morning starwas tantamount to treason.

And the unfurling of banners with the words “Self-Determination for West Papua, Stop West Papua Militarism” and “Indonesia Immediately Opens Access to Human Rights Commission Investigation Team United Nations man to West Papua” was also seen as treason.

“Intention to separate”
The verdict reads: “The defendants already intend to separate Papua and West Papua from the territory of Indonesia. The defendants committed the beginning of treason as stipulated in article 87 of the penal code”.

After the trial, the defendant’s attorney, Emanuel Gobay, said jubi “we strongly reject” the court’s treason verdict.

During the trial, Gobay said no expert witnesses were called to explain his views on the charges.

According to Gobay, the conclusions reached by the panel of judges seemed subjective because there was no information from expert witnesses.

“We question the basis on which the panel of judges concluded the betrayal. It is as if the panel of judges were acting as experts, interpreting and concluding on their own without relying on expert testimony,” Gobay said.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.