Political prisoner in Indonesia: Johan Teterissa

  • In June 2007, an official ceremony was held in Ambon, the capital of the Moluccas, which was attended by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and other senior government representatives.
  • Suddenly 23 Moluccans broke through the security cordon and started dancing. They were dancing the cakalele, a traditional Moluccan wardance.
  • Afterwards they unfurled a flag that symbolises an independent Republic of the South Moluccas (RMS).The dance and the unfurling of the flag are considered high treason and subversion of the unity of the Indonesian state.
  • The cakelele dancers were arrested after their peaceful protest, and they were mistreated in prison. Among them was Johan Teterissa, the leader of the cakelele dancers. Initially he was sentenced to life imprisonment but on appeal, he received a 15-year prison term.
  • Teterissa’s wife, Martha, is very worried. She doesn’t know how she can provide for herself and her children. She often thinks about the events on that day in 2007. “I knew that Johan was going to dance. And I knew that he would be punished for dancing because the president was there. But I thought he would receive a light sentence. After all, the just danced. They didn’t commit any crimes or kill anyone. I’ve given up hope…”