Court Ruling Criticised as Racist by Rights Activists


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A plain clothes police officer grabs Obby Kogoya by his nostrils and pulls him by his nose

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A plain clothes police officer uses his foot to push Obby Kogoya’s face into the ground.

Obby Kogoya, a victim of degrading treatment, was found guilty of attacking police officers by a district court yesterday in Yogyakarta, Indonesia (27/07/2017)). Rights activists condemned the ruling as racist and unjust. The verdict is part of the aftermath of one of the most racially-charged incidents targeting West Papuans that has occurred in recent years.

The incident in question occurred during the three-day siege of a West Papuan dormitory located in Yogyakarta (14-16 July 2016). Hundreds of police officers and civil militia prevented West Papuan students from holding a peaceful demonstration in support of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua’s (ULMWP) application for full membership status in the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG). Dozens of students were prevented from either entering or exiting the dormitory. Police prevented anyone, including the Indonesian Red Cross, from delivering food and water to the students inside. Tear gas was utilised by police multiple times. The students were continually met by racially-charged physical and verbal abuse. More than one hundred civil society organisations across Indonesia condemned the incident as racist, discriminatory, and a violation of the right tofreedom of speech.

On the second day of the siege, Obby Kogoya and eleven other West Papuan friends came to the dorm to deliver cassavas for the trapped students. They were attacked, beaten, and kicked by police and the civil militia, and subjected to verbal racial abuse. At this time, the infamous photos of Obby Kogoya receiving degrading treatment were captured (photos at top). Eight people including Obby Kogoya were subsequently taken to the police headquarters. Obby was the only one who was charged. He was cited under article 212 of penal code for the alleged crime of attacking police officers.

Over a year later, the court finally delivered its judgment. Obby Kogoya was found guilty and sentenced to four months in prison with one year probation. His defence lawyers, the Yogyakarta Legal Aid Institute, published a statement criticising the decision as racist. They stressed that the evidence of Obby Kogoya attacking police officers was not established during the trial. Further, while his lawyers also reported on the degrading treatment that Obby received from the police over the past year, there has been no sign of any follow-up investigation conducted by police. Obby Kogoya and his lawyers are presently discussing his option to appeal the verdict.

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