West Papuan leader jailed for life

March 27, 1991

By Norm Dixon

Mecky Salosa, a senior leader of the Free West Papua Movement (OPM), which is fighting for independence of Indonesian-occupied West Papua, was sentenced to life imprisonment on March 18 by an Indonesian District Court in Jayapura. The prosecution had asked for the death penalty.

Mecky Salosa's case has outraged many Papua New Guineans because it resulted from collusion between the PNG and Indonesian governments to crush the OPM, which has been waging its struggle since 1962.

Salosa was arrested by PNG authorities in December 1989 and jailed for illegal possession of arms. Last July 22, he was spirited across the border by PNG security agents and arrested by the Indonesian authorities in West Papua. Foreign Minister Michael Somare described Salosa's "deportation" as just the start of a policy of getting tough with the OPM.

TAPOL, the human rights group that focusses on Indonesia, pointed out that Salosa's removal was illegal and highlighted the extent to which the PNG government was prepared to appease the Indonesians.

Salosa's trial began on January 8. He was accused of influencing others to join the OPM and fight against the Indonesian government, of abusing and inciting people and undermining development in the border region. He was also accused of involvement in the attack on Arso IV transmigration camp in Jayapura, in which 14 migrants were killed.

Before the trial, Salosa is said to have been tortured. The Times of PNG reported that he had "very sore cheeks and several teeth had fallen out due to heavy bashing and being starved. Nails from both his fingers and toes were pulled out."

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