Sabar Iwanggin Released

Reports on release of Sabar Iwanggin

According to a report received today from the Evangelical Christian Church in Papua (GKI), Iwanggin Sabar Olaf who was on trial for incitement for circulating an SMS to friends and relatives, has been acquitted of the charges. The panel of judges, announcing their verdict on 29 January, said that the evidence presented in court was not sufficiently convincing to convict him.

Iwanggin, 43 years, a volunteer human rights lawyer working with the Jayapura NGO, ELSHAM, had circulated a message by SMS in October 2007 which he had received from another source drawing attention to various warnings issued by the Indonesian President which might imperil Papua natural resources and cause serious problems for the Papuan people.

Earlier in the trial, the prosecution had asked the court to find him guilty and sentence him to three and a half years in prison.

At the time of his arrest in October 2007, Iwanggin was transferred from Jayapura to Jakarta and he was in the hands of DENSUS 88 (Detachment 88) , the Special Anti-Terror Detachment, a fact that alarmed his family and lawyers because this unit was created following the bombing in Bali in 2002 which killed more than 200 people. They were also concerned about his transfer to Jakarta, whereas the alleged crime had been committed in West Papua.

He was charged under Article 160 of the Criminal Code for inciting others to commit acts of violence against the state authorities, with a maximum penalty of six years.

In their message, the GKI said that Iwanggin had telephoned their office to thank them and everyone else involved for their support, both at home and abroad. He also said: We will continue to struggle for the truth.’

TAPOL warmly welcomes this verdict and congratulates Iwanggin for his steadfastness during what must surely have been a very difficult period.

From Tapol

Amnesty International

29 January 2009
A prominent human rights lawyer in Indonesia has been cleared of charges relating to a text message he is alleged to have sent to his friends and family contacts. Iwanggin Sabar Olif, a member of the Papuan organization ELSHAM (Lembaga Studi dan Advokasi Hak Asasi Manusia, Institute for Human Rights Study and Advocacy), had faced up to six years in prison.

The text message asked people to be careful because Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had ordered a deadly program together with the army aimed at “eradicating” (membasmikan) the Papuan population through food poisoning and other violent actions. However, Iwanggin Sabar Olif always denied having written or sent this message, or even having received it.

He had been charged under Article 160 of Indonesia’s Criminal Code (KUHP, Kitab Undang-Undang Hukum Pidana), which punishes “any person who orally or in writing incites in public to commit a punishable act, a violent action against the public authority or any other disobedience”.

This article has been used in the past against human rights defenders in various parts of Indonesia including Aceh, Java, East Kalimantan and Maluku to suppress freedom of expression and assembly.

However, the Jayapura District Court in Papua province, cleared Iwanggin Sabar Olif of all charges on Thursday.

The decision comes nearly two weeks after the Papuan High Court extended the prison sentences of 11 protesters who were appealing their conviction merely because they had displayed a banned flag.

Amnesty International welcomed the acquittal of Iwanggin Sabar Olif, but called on the Indonesia authorities to ensure that Article 160 is no longer used to undermine the right to freedom of expression.

“Iwanggin Sabar Olif should never have been arrested in the first place. His detention from October 2007 to January 2008 and his subsequent trial took over 15 months,” said Donna Guest, from Amnesty International. “This prevented him from carrying out his legitimate work as a human rights defender in Papua.

“As Hina Jilani, then Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders, recommended in her report after her June 2007 visit to Indonesia, procedures should be ‘instituted to prevent the prosecution of human rights defenders aimed at their harassment for conducting activities that are legitimately a part of their function for the defence of human rights.”
Papuans face prison in Indonesia for raising a flag (News, 15 January 2009)



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