Two West Papuan students say they were kicked, called “monkeys” and struck with a cattle-prod style instrument by Indonesian police after being arrested at a rally for West Papuan political prisoners last Wednesday.
Alfares Kapissa, 27, and Yali Wenda, 19, told New Matilda they were severely injured during 36 hours in police custody after being arrested for their involvement in the protest at Cenderawasih University in Jayapura.
Similar rallies were held around the globe, including in Melbourne, last week to call for the release of dozens of West Papuans imprisoned for speaking out against the Indonesian state.
West Papuans regularly receive long jail terms for holding demonstrations, raising the banned morning star flag, and for other acts that are deemed a threat to Indonesian sovereignty over West Papua. According to data from Papuans Behind Bars, political arrests in West Papua are increasing.
Wenda told NM he participated in the protest because “all our leaders are in prison — many of my elders are in prison without any good reason”. From Jayapura, he described what happened when police arrived to arrest him and Kapissa, who were targeted as organisers of the rally.
“The police grabbed Alfares first, then they grabbed me,” he told NM. “They threw me into the truck. Some of my friends tried to stop the police but they weren't able. The police fired their rifles into the air and released tear gas.
“Once in the truck the police beat me. I was hit hard on the ear with a rifle butt then they beat me on the back and on other parts of my body.
“I tried to protect myself then one of the policemen grabbed a baton made of rattan and stabbed me on the foot. Then they twisted it hard on my foot, piercing my skin. By that stage I was lying on the floor of the truck.”
Wenda said that during a 25-minute trip to the police station, he and Kapissa were both struck numerous times in the face and eyes, and that police used a long instrument like a cattle prod or stun gun to deliver what felt like electric shocks. He said he was so badly beaten that “until now I can’t even eat rice, only porridge”.
“While I was in the truck the police held me down with a shield and electrocuted me. I just tried to hold my head. I screamed but the police yelled 'quiet' then hit me again. When they electrocuted me my arms went out from body. I could not control them and I could not protect myself.
“There were about 10 or so police. They all took turns at beating me. Most of them were from Java, two were Papuan. The police called us ‘stupid students’, ‘monkeys’ and ‘dogs’. They told us we would die, that we would never get freedom,” he said.
When the duo arrived at the police station Wenda told NM they were put in a cell with other prisoners and spent the night sleeping on the floor. The next morning they were questioned by police, without a lawyer.
“[The police] asked us who else was involved in the action, if we knew certain people or where they lived,” Wenda said. “The police said there was no need to demonstrate. They asked why we were involved in the action, why we wanted to demonstrate to free political prisoners.”
“The police wrote a statement. I saw the police write that we weren't beaten then they forced us to sign it. They also asked us to sign a statement that we would not carry out any other demonstrations. The police accused us of being criminals, of attacking them when in fact it was the police who beat us.
“We complained that what the police wrote was not right but the police just forced us to sign the statement,” he said.
The pair said they were released at midnight on Thursday and that they visited a hospital the following day where they were told they had no broken bones. “But they told us that if we wanted [the medical report]we would have to ask the police for permission,” Wenda said.
Kapissa told NM, “The doctor took photos [of the injuries]and I asked for a copy but then the police intelligence arrived. That’s when the doctor said to me and the police that there’s nothing wrong with me, I’m fine.”
“But I feel really different. I feel really hurt,” he said.
Since being released, Wenda said he had twice been visited by police intelligence officers, who asked him if he was afraid after being beaten.
“I am determined to keep doing what I can for the [West Papuan] people,” he said.
“Some of my family have been imprisoned. Some have been killed.
“Indonesian soldiers tied up my nana then they shot her dead in front in my eyes. In 2003 my uncle was shot dead by the army. Another time when I was in high school, I was also almost shot. Instead my friend, Agus Wenda, was shot. He died instantly," Wenda said.
“I signed the police statement but I told the police I would still demonstrate. The longer we wait the more Papuans disappear. The Indonesian system is used to destroy us as Papuans. That is why I want to resist. The system has to be changed.”
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