The Pole’s appeal rejected, slapped with two more years

The Polish tourist who was arrested in West Papua and sentenced by the Indonesian court to five years in prison, lost his appeal to the Indonesian supreme court. He was instead instead slapped with two additional years his prison five-year prison term. He will now serve a total of seven years.

Jakub Skrzypski at his arraignment

The case against Jakub Skrzypski

In August 2018, Mr. Jakub Skrzypski arrived in West Papua and was arrested by Indonesian police. He was accused trying to help the West Papuan separatist organization OPM to overthrow the Indonesian government. The Indonesian prosecutors claimed that Mr. Skrzypski was in possession of OPM documents and other evidences at the time of his arrest. Couple that with his social media posts, Mr. Skrzypski, the prosecutors claimed,  posed a serious threat  to the national security of Indonesia. Mr. Skrzypski was charged with subversion – the conspiracy to overthrow the Indonesian. After days of trial, he was sentenced to five years behind bars.

His appeal to Indonesian supreme court, however, shocked him and his attorney. The supreme court rejected his appeal and added two more years to the prison term, and he will now serve 7 years in prison.

Indonesian harsh attitudes toward outsiders

The Indonesian government is highly suspicious of foreigners entering West Papua legally or otherwise.  Undercover cops are dispatched to watch their every move;  what they do and who they talk to. In fact, they treat every foreigner as a possible threat to the state, and when one is caught – irregardless of the weight of the evidence – they make sure that the accused feels the full weight of the law. The case of the Spanish visitor to West Papua is a good example.

In 2016, Andreu Arino of Spain visited West Papua and was staying at a hotel in downtown Jayapura when he said a protest took place just near his hotel so he to see but he never anticipated what happened next. The naive tourist stopped to talk to a few protestors and he was surrounded by police in SWAT uniforms and high powered guns as if he was the most dangerous person ever walked the earth.

Andreu Arino surrounded armed police

Mr. Arino was taken to  police station and interrogated till the next day. They took his passports and traveling documents, made copies of them and leaked them to the public – they posted all his information online. Mr. Arino was let go the next day without an apology from Indonesian police who failed to prove that he was a threat. He was being abused for simply talking to peaceful protestors. This is the Indonesian police tactic that many West Papuan activists are a familiar with.

Form the RNZ:

ANDREW ARINO: Basically I heard there was a demonstration going on and yeah, curiosity, I went to take a look, take some pictures, interact with the people. So to my surprise, when I was getting closer, I wanted to take some pictures and some guy grabbed me. He was wearing plain clothes. I guess it was the police. After some small struggle they took me to the police office and they started asking me why I was there and everything.

INDIRA STEWART: Sorry, we’ll just backtrack a bit there. So you weren’t participating in the rally, in the demonstration. You just attended and you were observing?

AA: Yeah, my first intention was to be as an observer. Read more

At this point, it is impossible to ascertain whether the facts matched Mr. Skrzypski’s sentence, or whether he’s indeed what the Indonesian police portrayed him to be. But judging from past events, the Indonesian police are highly unreliable when it comes to “fairness” and the principle of “innocent until proven guilty.” To them, a person is presumed guilty until he proves himself innocent of the crimes. This tactic has transformed West Papua into a spider-web for foreigners. Those who are caught in it are in for a ride to hell.

Political fallout

Aljazeera reported that the European Parliament rejected the characterization of the Pole, instead referring to him as a ‘Political Prison’. Form Aljazeera:

The European Parliament has described Skrzypski as a political prisoner and called for his transfer back to Poland.

So far, all requests to return Mr. Skrzypski to Poland fell on deaf years. Both the European parliament and the Polish government have submitted requests for the Indonesian government to return him to Poland but were rejected by the paranoid government in Jakarta. With his declining health, he might not be able to serve his full prison term. And it is unclear what the Polish government and the European Parliament will do next.

Status of West Papua today

So far foreign journalists, diplomats, UN observers, and civil rights organizations are not allowed in West Papua. Earlier this year, indigenous people rose up against Indonesian racism and colonialism but were brutally put down by the Indonesian military and armed police. More than thirty people were killed and about a hundred injured. All of the victims were indigenous West Papuans. In response to the violence, the UN Human Rights filed an emergency application to visit West Papua, but was rejected without an explanation. To this day, the Indonesian government has not been reprimanded by the UN and the international community which remained silent while the Indonesian police slaughtered unarmed West Papuans.

Today, West Papua remains one of the highest militarized zones in the world. All those who contemplate traveling to Indonesia and West Papua must understand the risks.


Admin – West Papua Human Rights Center, Washington, D.C