Trial of Pole charged for links to Papuan separatists begins

Papuans take part on a parade in Surabaya, East Java province, on December 1, 2018, during a commemoration of the independence day of Papua from Dutch colonial, which is then commemorated every year by separatists as a symbol of their freedom from Indonesia. (Photo by JUNI KRISWANTO / AFP)
Papuans take part on a parade in Surabaya, East Java province, on December 1, 2018, during a commemoration of the independence day of Papua from Dutch colonial, which is then commemorated every year by separatists as a symbol of their freedom from Indonesia. (Photo by JUNI KRISWANTO / AFP)

A Polish man who faces a 15-year prison sentence if convicted for alleged links to Papuan separatists is scheduled to appear in court Monday for the start of his trial, an Indonesian official said.

Jakub Fabian Skrzypski was detained and charged in August for intending to film an arms deal between rebels in Indonesia’s restive province of Papua, a prosecutor said.

The trial will be held in Wamena where Skrzypski was arrested, the town’s prosecutor Ricarda Arsenius said.

“The indictment will be read out on Monday”, Arsenius told AFP, adding that Skrzypski is in good health.

Police said they had confiscated from Skrzypski and three Indonesians more than 130 rounds of ammunition and documents detailing the struggle of the Free Papua Movement.

Skrzypski’s lawyer Latifah Anum Siregar said the Pole, who was living in Switzerland before his arrest, denied any wrongdoing.

“We’ll see what the prosecutors’ indictment is. We are ready to submit evidence to refute the charges,” Latifah Anum Siregar told AFP.

In a letter sent to the Swiss newspaper Le Temps in September, Skrzypski said he was merely a tourist in Papua.

“They (the investigators) are telling stories about ammunitions, but I’ve never seen or possessed any.

“They are trying to accuse me of an attempted coup, but all I’ve done was meeting some indigenous Papuans, who were not armed,” he said in the letter.

Papua, a former Dutch colony, declared itself independent in 1961, but neighbouring Indonesia took control of the region two years later on the condition it hold an independence referendum.

About 1,000 handpicked Papuan unanimously chose in the UN-backed referendum to be part of Indonesia, though some considered it a sham.

The region, one of Indonesia’s poorest, has since experienced numerous attacks on civilians with the most recent one earlier this month.

At least 16 employees of a state-owned company, who were building bridges in a major infrastructure push for the impoverished region, were killed by separatist rebels in early December.

The National Liberation Army of West Papua (TPNPB) claimed responsibility for the killings, describing the workers as legitimate targets for participating in what they said was a military-controlled project.

At least four more workers remain missing, while a soldier was also killed by the rebels, authorities said.

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