Pole jailed in Indonesia’s West Papua faces ‘declining health’
European diplomats step up pressure as they call on Jakarta to move Jakub Skrzypski to another facility pending appeal.
European diplomats are stepping up pressure on Indonesia to look into the case of a Polish man who has been jailed in its easternmost region for more than a year, amid reports of his declining health.
Jakub Skrzypski is the first foreigner to be found guilty of an attempt to overthrow the Indonesian government and imprisoned under Article 106 of the Indonesian criminal code.
He was sentenced to five years in prison in May. Since his arrest in West Papua in August 2018, he has been detained in the town of Wamena, one of the several places in the region that saw a wave of deadly violence in recent months.
Skrzypski has denied the allegations and is appealing his conviction.
As he awaits the result of his appeal, the European Union and the Polish government vowed to press Jakarta to resolve the issue.
Last week, EU Ambassador to Indonesia Vincent Piket met Indonesia’s Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly. On the agenda for the meeting was the Skrzypski case.
EU Spokesperson Maja Kocijancic said European diplomats asked Indonesia earlier this month to review the case and transfer the Polish man to Bandung, where he could receive visits from a representative of the Polish consulate.
In October, the European Parliament had referred to Skrzypski as a political prisoner and expressed concern over his continued incarceration, given the unrest in West Papua. It demanded his release and deportation to Poland.
Poland’s foreign ministry has claimed there were procedural mistakes during the court proceedings, and that the case’s connection to the current political situation in West Papua adds to its complexity.
Last week, a Polish embassy official visited Skrzypski and urged the government to apply international standards to his treatment.
Fair trial promised
Jacek Czaputowicz, Poland’s minister of foreign affairs, has met his Indonesian counterpart, Retno Marsudi, three times since the arrest of Skrzypski.
Marsudi reportedly assured him that Skrzypski’s trial would be fair and the Polish consul in Jakarta would have free access to the detainee.
But Al Jazeera learned that it was not always the case, and several diplomatic notes regarding the Pole’s detention were reportedly ignored.
Skrzypski’s lawyer, Latifah Anum Siregar, told Al Jazeera that her client has long complained about conditions at the police detention centre where he is being kept instead of a prison facility.
Latifah said Skrzypski has not been allowed out of his cell for walks and had not been seen by a doctor.
The lawyer, who is based in Papua’s provincial capital, Jayapura, and the Jakarta-based diplomats also have to deal with long hours of travel to reach Wamena.
While Skrzypski’s life is not under direct threat, locals who used to bring him food have left since violence erupted in the region.
In addition, there was nobody available to treat him when he suffered severe eye inflammation, as most doctors have also reportedly fled.
Caught in political turmoil
Skrzypski had been in Indonesia several times as a tourist, visiting West Papua to verify claims of human rights violations against ethnic Papuans.
In August 2018, he was travelling across the region, briefly crossing to neighbouring Papua New Guinea, when Indonesian police arrested him and accused him of joining the separatist West Papua National Liberation Army – an armed group Jakarta calls a terrorist organisation.
Initially, the police claimed to have evidence that he was involved in arms trading but the allegation was not raised during the trial.
Skrzypski rejected all the criminal charges but admitted to having met people who turned out to be the members of the National Committee for West Papua, which supports a non-violent approach to Papuan independence.
Latifah, his lawyer, said Skrzypski was merely visiting friends he met online and did not intend to join any organisation.
In May, Wamena district court found Skrzypski guilty and sentenced him to five years in prison. Local student Simon Magal, who met the Pole, was also jailed for four years.
Skrzypski rejected the verdict, saying all charges were trumped up and the trial was a sham, alleging the prosecution witnesses were bribed and that potential defence witnesses were also too frightened to testify.
Asked about Skrzypski’s case, Teuku Faizasyah, spokesperson for the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Al Jazeera that the ministry acted based on the notes and provided reply “when needed”.
Regarding the requested transfer, Teuku said it would only be possible when all the legal options were exhausted and the court’s decision had come into force.
“His rights have also been fulfilled and facilitated in respect of process law,” he added but did not comment on the security problems in Papua.
The Ministry of Law and Human Rights has not responded to Al Jazeera’s queries.
Authorities in Wamena have promised to provide the needed medical attention, but Febiana Wilma Sorbu, one of the prosecutors in charge of the case, refused to answer Al Jazeera’s questions on the conditions Skrzypski is being kept in.
Andreas Harsono, Indonesia researcher at Human Rights Watch, said he has no doubt that the treatment of Skrzypski violates human rights under international and Indonesian law.
“Jakub Skrzypski has been unfortunately entangled in Indonesia’s paranoid bureaucracy.
“The longer his imprisonment continues, the more Indonesian machinery is making him to document the rotten prison cells, something that Indigenous Papuans are very familiar with,” Harsono said.
Latifah, Skrzypski’s lawyer, added: “This is a highly political case with extremely weak evidence.”
Evidence reportedly included photos of Skrzypski at a recreational shooting range in Switzerland and unconcluded Facebook conversations.
After the Papua High Court upheld the sentence in July, Skrzypski’s advocates appealed the case before the Supreme Court, asking for him to be acquitted of all the charges.
Meanwhile, prosecutors are seeking a tougher sentence.