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Indonesian police arrest West Papuan leaders

West Papua news
Buchtar Tabuni during his arrest.

Indonesian Police have arrested Buchtar Tabuni, one of West Papua’s most important liberation leaders, along with three other ULMWP Ministers.

‘Indonesia are once again suppressing freedom of expression and assembly in West Papua, in an attempt to crush our spirit and commitment to our struggle,’ said Benny Wenda, Interim President of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP).

Buchtar Tabuni is the Chairman of the West Papua council, and a member of the ULMWP Council Committee. He was arrested along with Bazoka Logo, Minister of Political Affairs, and Iche Murib, Minister of Women’s and Children’s Affairs. The trio were arrested at Mr Tabuni’s house in Jayapura, following an annual ULMWP meeting, and interrogated at a nearby police station.

‘What is their crime? What possible justification can there be for this crackdown? This was after a peaceful meeting at a private residence. The right to assembly is a basic human right, enshrined in the constitutions of countries around the world, including Indonesia,’ said Wenda.

‘Every year, the National Parliament of the ULMWP meets to share information on events in their regions and discuss the situation of the struggle. West Papuans have the right, under international law, to peacefully mobilise for our independence. I call on anyone concerned by these arrests to call the Indonesian Police chief in Papua on 081217705813, and the Chief of Police in Jayapura on +6281217705813, to express their disgust at this development.

West Papua news
Protestors gather outside Jayapura police station to call for the trio’s release.

‘These arrests are in breach of basic principles of international diplomacy and human rights. Both the ULMWP and Indonesia are members of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, a regional forum. We sit around the table together as equals. Imagine if British police arrested a Scottish Parliamentarian following a peaceful meeting in their own home – there would be international outcry. This is the brutal reality of Indonesia’s colonial occupation.’

This is not the first time Mr Tabuni has been targeted by the Indonesian state. He has spent much of his life behind bars, and was previously arrested and charged with treason for his involvement in anti-racism protests in 2020.

‘This is political persecution: the harshness of Buchtar’s treatment is due only to his position as a respected leader of the independence struggle. History tells us that there is no such thing as a fair trial for West Papuans in Indonesia. Victor Yeimo is still gravely ill in prison, where he has been held on spurious treason charges since May 2021. We urgently need the assistance of all international solidarity groups and NGOs – you must pressure your governments to help secure Mr Tabuni’s release, and all other West Papuan political prisoners.

‘Mr Tabuni is a leading advocate for a peaceful solution in West Papua: a true peacemaker, both for West Papuans and Indonesian migrants. As Chairman of the West Papua Council, and a founding member of the KNPB, he has advocated relentlessly for an internationally-mediated independence referendum. We demand that Indonesia immediately release him, along with Bazoka Logo and Iche Murib. Their freedom is essential in order to keep the peace.

‘Indonesia cannot arrest their way to peace in West Papua. The longing for freedom we hold in our hearts is too powerful: we will continue our struggle until we have won our liberation. But there is yet a peaceful resolution to this issue. Instead of more arrests, more human rights abuses, President Joko Widodo must sit with me to discuss the path to an internationally-mediated referendum.’

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