Indonesia: Papuan farmer imprisoned for Facebook post

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Soon Tabuni was arrested after he made a Facebook post on 25 May 2020 stating "The shooting of 2 school children at mile 34, Kalibiru, Timika and 2 medical personnel at Intan Jaya, the actor is the Papua Police Chief Paulus Waterpauw".

He was arrested two days later, on 27 May, by plain clothed officers from the Mimika Police without an arrest warrant. During the arrest, Soon was shot three times in the leg causing him to be taken to the hospital for treatment (outpatient). 

Soon Tabuni was later detained at the Mobile Brigade Command prison in Mimika Regency where he remained until today. He has been accused of violating the Article 45A paragraph (2) jo. Article 28 paragraph (2) Law No. 19 of 2016 on the Amendment to Law No. 11 of 2008 on Electronic Information and Transactions jo. Article 55 paragraph (1) of the Criminal Code.

Court proceedings have been incredibly slow, with Soon having been detained for 332 days. Soon’s lawyers have only been able to see him after lodging multiple complaints. All legal meetings have with a strict time limit and have been closely monitored. 

The prosecutors read their indictment on Thursday, 15 April 2021, with demands for his imprisonment of 1 year 6 months, a fine of IDR 1 billion, a subsidiary of 6 months imprisonment. On 23 April 2021, the Timika District court sentenced him to 6 months imprisonment and a fine of IDR 1 billion. 

The poor conditions of the detention facilities, namely bad air circulation and poor water quality, has had a negative impact on Soon's physical and mental wellbeing. His family are only able to visit him once a week, raising fears for his deteriorating health. Responding to why Soon was being held at the Mobile Brigade Command prison, which is not standard procedure, officers stated that it was due to "orders from superiors".   

The President of the Republic of Indonesia has expressed his concern on the ITE law as it may not be consistent with the public sense of justice. The President has ordered the Chief of Police and all Police personnel to be more selective in responding to and accepting reports that use the ITE Law as a legal reference .

The Indonesian authorities have used the ITE Law to prosecute hundreds of peaceful activists, media officers and human right defenders who criticize the government. The ITE Law, contains vague language which has been misused by the government to criminalize the rights to freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion in Indonesia. The criminal defamation and “incitement” provisions under ITE Law have been used to criminalize freedom of expression. These include Article 27(3), which criminalizes “the conduct of anyone who intentionally and without right distributes and/or transmits and/or makes accessible electronic information and/or electronic documents that contains insults and/or defamation”. Article 28(2) of the ITE Law also criminalizes “the dissemination of information that incites hate or enmity among certain individuals and/or groups based on ethnicity, religion, race or intergroup relation”.

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