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Jakarta Post

Three activists in Maluku convicted of treason for raising RMS flag

  • Belseran Christ

    The Jakarta Post

Ambon   /   Mon, October 26, 2020   /   04:45 pm
Three activists in Maluku convicted of treason for raising RMS flag Illustration of a judge handing down a sentence in a court. (Shutterstock/Prilutskiy)

Three activists in Maluku were sentenced to up to three years in prison after having been convicted of treason on Friday for raising the flag of the South Maluku Republic (RMS) separatist movement in April.

A panel of judges at the Ambon District Court sentenced the activists, Simon Viktor Taihittu and Johanis Pattiasina, to two years in prison, and Abner Litamuhuputty to three years in prison during a hearing held virtually on Friday.

The punishments are more lenient than the three to four years of imprisonment previously demanded by prosecutors.

All three convicts were charged under articles 106 and 55 of the Criminal Code on collective treason.

Presiding judge Ahmad Hukayat said the three convicts had perpetrated an act that threatened national unity and stability, as well as public order.

On April 25, Simon, Johanis and Abner entered the Maluku Police office complex while carrying RMS flags and shouting “mena muria”, a local expression of solidarity.

Semuel Wailerunny, a lawyer representing the convicts, conveyed his disappointment over the court’s ruling, claiming that it was unfair.

“We feel that it’s unfair. We believe the judges are so prejudiced by their own political interests that they sidelined principles of justice,” Semuel said.

He went on to say that the ruling was not based on any sound legal scaffolding, noting that the judges had referred to a “vague” definition of treason.

Semuel said he would discuss the possibility of an appeal with his clients.

Read also: Growing fear of speaking out: Survey finds Indonesia's civil liberties under threat

During the previous hearing of the case, Amnesty International Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid said in his capacity as an expert witness that the three activists had been merely exercising their right to free speech in an orderly manner.

“Peaceful expression of ideas is guaranteed by the [1945] Constitution,” he said, adding that freedom of expression was stipulated in Law No. 39/1999 on human rights.

As of May, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's administration has detained at least 69 prisoners of conscience on treason charges, 54 of whom are indigenous Papuans, according to data collected by human rights defenders.

Most of the political prisoners in the nation have been convicted of treason stipulated in provisions under the Criminal Code in cases human rights activists describe only as exercising their freedom and pro-independence sentiment nonviolently. (rfa)