On 1 February 2024, the Jayapura District Court ruled on the case of West Papua National Committee (KNPB) Chairman, Mr Agus Kosay, and KNPB Numbay Secretary, Mr Beni Murib (see photos on top and below, source: independent HRDs), finding them guilty of incitement and the persecution of Mr Ones Kobak on 18 August 2023 . Mr Kosay received a sentence of 1 year in prison, while Mr Murib was sentenced to 10 months. The cases, registered under case numbers 449/Pid.B/2023/PN Jap for Kosay and 450/Pid.B/2023/PN Jap for Murib, were heard by a panel of judges led by Mr Zaka Talpatty. Uniformed and plainclothes police officers closely monitored the court session.
During the trial, the panel of judges noted that Mr Agus Kosay was proven to have caused losses to two groups, both in terms of goods and injuries, leading to his conviction for incitement under Article 160 of the Indonesian Criminal Code (KUHP). The judges sentenced Mr Kosay to 1 year in prison, with the period of detention deducted from the total sentence. Similarly, Beni Murib was found guilty of maltreatment as stipulated in Article 351 KUHP and received a 10-month prison sentence with the same deduction for detention. The judges ordered Mr Kosay and Mr Murib to pay court costs and granted them seven days to file an appeal if they objected to the decision. Previously, the public prosecutor had demanded a sentence of two years imprisonment for Mr Agus Kosay and eight months imprisonment for Mr Beni Murib.
The criminalisation of activists should be viewed with vigilance. It indicates growing restrictions on the freedom of expression, a key element of human rights and democracy. Ultimately, the legal process must adhere to international human rights standards and principles of justice. The prosecution of the KNPB activists raises significant concerns from a human rights perspective. The events leading up to their arrest and legal prosecution are an indicator of the lack of independence of the judiciary in Indonesia and the persistent pattern of criminalization of activists and human rights defenders in West Papua.
The KNPB is a Papuan movement organisation promoting the right to self-determination through a referendum. Their members have committed to non-violent protest by organising peaceful demonstrations and political discussions. In the past decade, the Indonesian police have targeted the KNPB as a subversive pro-independence organisation. KNPB members and supporters are criminalised and have become victims of police violence.
More than seventy police officers detained Mr Agus Kossay, KNPB Chairman, Mr Benny Murib, KNPB Secretary in Jayapura, Mr Ruben Wakla, member of the KNPB in the Yahukimo Regency, and Mr Ferry Yelipele on 2 September 2023. The police officers came to Mr Kossay’s residence in the town of Sentani around 9:00 a.m. The four activists were subsequently detained and interrogated at the Jayapura District Police Station in Doyo Baru. Mr Wakla and Mr Yelipele were released on 3 September 2023 at 8:45 pm without charges.
The police allegedly carried out the arrests because Mr Kossay had not reacted to the police summons about an argument within different KNPB fractions on 18 August 2023. Mr Kossay had honoured the first police summons but later received a second summons, which he did not attend. The arrests were carried out even though both parties called upon the authorities that the incident should be settled internally and outside of the law. On 31 October 2023, investigators from the Jayapura Police in Papua Province transferred Agus Kosay, Chairman of the West Papua National Coalition (KNPB), and Numbay Beny Murib, KNPB Secretary, to the Jayapura State Prosecutor’s Office. The activists were both named suspects in a case related to incitement on 18 August 2023 in Jayapura Regency, Papua