Political Prisoners from the Moluccas
- A pro-independence movement has existed in the southern Moluccas, centered on the island of Ambon, since 1950, the year after Indonesia gained its independence. Many of the indigenous people of this region call themselves Alifurus. On April 25, 1950, Alifuru nationalists in the All Southern Moluccas Council, led by Chr. R.S. Soumokil, held a national conference on Ambon Island and proclaimed the creation of the independent Republic of the South Moluccas (Republik Maluku Selatan, RMS). President Sukarno’s decision later that year to disband the federal Republic of the United States of Indonesia in favor of a more centralized Republic of Indonesia gave further impetus to Moluccan separatism.
- In response to the RMS proclamation, the Indonesian government sent troops to Ambon, conducting military operations that largely dispersed the rebellion by November 1950 but which continued until the final defeat of the RMS in 1966. Many of the surviving RMS leaders fled into exile in the Netherlands where they formed a government-in-exile that continues to this day.
- While the RMS does not today enjoy broad support in the Moluccas, nationalist sentiments have continued in pockets in the region. Issues of independence and sovereignty were inflamed by religion-based communal conflicts between the predominantly Christian Alifurus and Muslim migrants from Java and Sulawesi (migration that for many years was encouraged by the Indonesian government). Sectarian violence erupted in January 1999 in Ambon and later spread throughout the archipelago, continuing through 2005. Thousands of people were killed and tens of thousands displaced by the violence.
- An Ambonese man named Alex Manuputty established the Moluccan Sovereignty Front (Front Kedaulatan Maluku, FKM) in December 2000, claiming the conflict could only be resolved if the Moluccas achieved independence and endorsing the establishment of an independent Republic of the South Moluccas. Moluccas Governor Saleh Latuconsina officially banned the FKM in 2001.
- Raising the RMS flag, especially on the April 25 anniversary of the founding of the RMS in 1950, has become a major method of expressing public disapproval of Indonesian rule and many Moluccan political prisoners have been arrested following flag-raising ceremonies. But some of the harshest penalties were meted out to a large group who unfurled RMS flags during the June 29, 2007 celebration of National Family Day in Ambon attended by President Yudhoyono and foreign dignitaries. Three of the political prisoners whose cases are profiled below were among those involved in this incident.
- Tim Advokasi Masyarakat Sipil Maluku (Tamasu), an organization working to assist Moluccan prisoners, reports that there are currently 70-75 individuals in prison for their involvement in the RMS cause. Human Rights Watch did not have access to all the charge sheets, verdicts, or other legal papers and so cannot state definitively that all 70-75 are in prison for exercising their right to peaceful expression of their views, but it is clear from our interviews and press accounts that the vast majority fall into that category. The prisoners include 21 of the 28 persons arrested for involvement in the June 29, 2007 event as well as other activists involved in RMS flag-raising and other forms of political expression.
The 2007 Flag Unfurling and Its Violent Aftermath
- On June 29, 2007, during the National Family Day festivities at Merdeka Stadium in Ambon, 28 Alifuru dancers entered the tightly controlled stadium, danced the cakalele traditional war dance, and unfurled the banned RMS flag. A school teacher, Johan Teterisa, led the dancers, who mostly came from Aboru village, Haruku Island, east of Ambon. The incident publicly embarrassed President Yudhoyono in front of his foreign guests, and when he spoke after the dance he told the audience that there is “no tolerance” in Indonesia for separatism.
- Local officials reacted by immediately arresting a number of the dancers and taking them to the counter-terrorism police Detachment 88/Anti-Terror headquarters in Tantui, Ambon.
- Ambon police then launched a major crackdown against the RMS and arrested about 100 alleged activists. Teterisa and Ferdinand Waas, the raja (hereditary chief) of Hutumuri village in Ambon who aided and advised the dancers, were prosecuted for treason and received long prison terms.
- According to Teterisa, Detachment 88/Anti-Terror police officers demanded that he sign a statement calling on the Moluccas Sovereignty Front (Front Kedaulatan Maluku, FKM) to disband. The FKM is a banned organization that promotes the creation of an independent RMS, and Teterisa is an FKM board member in Aboru, Haruku Island.
- He says that when he refused to sign the document, police beat him almost continuously for at least 12 hours every day for 11 days. Several beat him with iron rods and stones, and slashed him with a bayonet. On June 30, 2007, four Detachment 88 officials beat him repeatedly with sticks and outside the unit’s office, kicked and pushed him down to the nearby Ambon sea, and continued beating him in the water. In another instance, officials kicked Teterisa out of a second floor room and down a set of stairs. Teterista told Human Rights Watch that his chest was crushed, a number of his ribs were broken, and he was covered with black bruises.
- When the interrogators realized that torture was not working to compel Teterisa to sign the letter, other officials came in and tried a softer approach, saying if he signed the letter, the Ambon government would provide some funding to increase fisheries in Teterisa’s home area of Aboru. He refused. The officials then offered to guarantee that if Teterisa cooperated, they would provide support for Teterisa’s three young sons to finish their education up to the college level, but he again refused.
- At 11 p.m. one night in July 2007, some officers brought him to Merdeka Stadium to see the dancing site. He was handcuffed and walked there at gun point. He told Human Rights Watch: “I kept on praying. I expected to be slaughtered that night.” He said this was because “I have refused their request. The Indonesian media in Ambon also put so much pressure on me. I think they had only one option left: killing me.” The officers never removed his handcuffs but Teterisa said that he was shown to a higher ranking official who was not identified, and then taken back to detention.
- Police arrested Moluccas activist Reimond Tuapattinaya on July 2, 2007. The police had previously raided a house that they suspected was being used by the National Family Day dancers, and found a DVD showing Tuapattinaya involved in a flag-raising ceremony in the Siwang area, outside of Ambon. Members of the Detachment 88/Anti-Terror squad tortured him extensively for 14 days in their headquarters in Tantui, Ambon.
- Tuapattinaya told Human Rights Watch, “We were tortured worse than Jemaah Islamiyah [militant Islamist] activists. We were stripped naked, only in our underwear, forced to sleep directly on the tile floor. Early in the morning, we were ordered to crawl. We were kicked, beaten, trampled. If they held an iron bar, we got the iron bar. If they held a wooden bat, we got the wooden bat. If they held a wire cable, we got cabled. Shoes. Bare hands. They used everything. The torture was conducted inside Tantui and the Moluccan police headquarters. I was tortured for 14 days in Tantui, day and night. They picked me up in the morning, and returned me, bleeding, to my cell in the evening.
- “One of them [involved in the torture] was the detachment commander…. He’s not an Ambonese,” Tuapattinaya told Human Rights Watch. “But most of the detachment interrogators were Ambonese. They all wore civilian clothes.”
- Three brothers—Arens, Ruben, and Yohanis Saiya—also took part in raising the RMS flags during the event on June 29, 2007. They were arrested and taken to Detachment 88 headquarters, where the police beat all three of them with pieces of wood and iron bars, kicked them with their boots, and banged their heads against walls. The Saiya brothers told Human Rights Watch that intelligence officers in plain clothes served as their interrogators.
- Arens Saiya, the eldest of the three, suffered internal bleeding in his intestine and urinary system, according to his medical records. He said many of the interrogators were non-Ambonese officers, including the commander. “I was tortured severely, more than a terrorist, when all I did was dancing cakalele.” He said he received minimal medical treatment when he was hospitalized in a Semarang hospital in March and May 2010. He continues to have difficulties urinating.
- Police at Detachment 88 beat Ruben Saiya so severely that they broke his ribs and caused profuse bleeding from his head. He was denied medical treatment for his injuries. Today, years after those beatings, Ruben said he still suffers the effects: “I have headaches now. It is difficult to sleep.” They also dragged him to the nearby coast of the Ambon sea and repeatedly dunked him in the water—a form of torture similar to “water-boarding.” Ruben told Human Rights Watch that as a result of his questioning, he was basically “shattered, shattered.” He said, “There are no more parts of my body that they had not beaten. We were beaten and made to crawl on the asphalt with our chests.” He said he continues to suffer the effects of his past torture, and often spits up blood in his current imprisonment at Kembang Kuning prison on Nusa Kambangan Island. He is serving a 20-year prison sentence. Their youngest brother, Yohanis, was a teenager when police arrested and tortured him. He is now held with Ruben at Kembang Kuning prison.
- The authorities have also tortured other RMS pro-independence activists involved in peaceful actions less high profile than the actions at Merdeka Stadium on June 29, 2007. Often these actions involve raising the RMS flag in public, especially on or around April 25th, the anniversary of the proclamation of the RMS.
- Leonard Hendriks, another RMS activist, said that he suffers from constant headaches on the right side of his head and face. Hendriks said the Indonesian police in Tantui beat him with their bare hands on the right side of his head and burned him with cigarettes. He is currently in prison in Malang.
- Another RMS prisoner, Johny Sinay, says he sometimes requires a wheelchair because of injuries suffered when police tortured him in Tantui. In late 2009, he collapsed in his Malang prison cell as a result of weakness in his legs which he attributes to the beatings he suffered to his legs, thighs, and back. Sinai asked officials at Malang prison to allow a medical specialist to evaluate his nervous system, but the request was denied.
- Police arrested Frejohn Saiya, now in Malang prison, after he took part in a RMS flag-raising. He said police tortured him for six days at the Detachment 88 headquarters in Tantui. At that time, he had long hair and he told Human Rights Watch that interrogators grabbed his hair, repeatedly banged his head against walls, and hit him with an iron rod. Police forced him to sleep on bare prison floors in his underwear.
Individual Case Profiles
- Johan Teterisa, born 1961, was an elementary school teacher in Aboru village, near Ambon, before he was imprisoned. He is a member of the RMS and on April 3, 2008, was sentenced to life in prison for treason. His purported crime was leading 27 other dancers holding RMS flags to protest Indonesian rule on June 29, 2007, in front of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at Merdeka Stadium in Ambon. All of the dancers were immediately arrested and taken to the police Detachment 88/Anti-Terror headquarters in Tantui, Ambon, where they were subjected to torture.
- State prosecutors charged Teterisa and more than 50 of his colleagues with treason under articles 106 and 110 of the Indonesian Criminal Code. An Ambon district court found him guilty and sentenced him to life imprisonment. Teterisa says he was shocked when he heard the judges pronounce the verdict of life imprisonment. Asmara Nababan, a former secretary-general of the National Commission on Human Rights in Jakarta, said the Ambon judges had failed to consider that Teterisa’s actions were non-violent. “The judges should have deemed his action more as a political aspiration than a life-threatening act,” Nababan told the media. “He only waved an RMS flag, and did not carry a weapon.” The Ambon court also convicted 19 of the dancers of treason, sentencing them to between 10 and 20 years in prison. On appeal, Teterisa’s sentence was reduced to 15 years.
- The authorities also targeted his family. His wife, Martha Leonora Sinay, was made a suspect by police who alleged that she knew about an RMS meeting held in the Teterisas’ house in Aboru village. Sinay fled to avoid arrest and hid in the jungle for seven months. Their three sons were forced to go live with relatives. She has now returned and is able to live openly in the village.
- On March 10, 2009, the Ambon government unexpectedly transferred Teterisa and 36 other political prisoners, including those imprisoned for the June 29, 2007 action as well as other pro-independent activities, from Ambon to Central Java. From there they were transferred to Porong (seven prisoners), Kediri (six prisoners), Semarang (six prisoners), and Malang (six prisoners including Teterisa himself). Twelve prisoners were sent to Nusa Kambangan Island, located south of Java, with half sent to Permisan prison and the other half to Kembang Kuning prison.
- Teterisa told Human Rights Watch that imprisonment in Java makes their lives much more miserable because it is now very difficult for the prisoners to meet their families. Their families cannot afford traveling by air to Java from Ambon, and transport by ferry and land transport is not practical or feasible.
- “It’s almost impossible for my wife and my sons to see their father in Malang. It’s too far. And my jail term is 15 years,” said Teterisa.
- Reimond Tuapattinaya, age 41, is an Ambonese who worked as a construction supervisor in Dili, East Timor, from 1991 to 1999. Indonesian police arrested Tuapattinaya on June 2, 2007, after they identified him as participant at the April 25, 2006 RMS flag-raising ceremony in Ambon. Police discovered a DVD film containing images of him at the event and submitted this as evidence at his trial for treason under articles 106 and 110 of the Criminal Code. The Ambon district court sentenced Tuapattinaya to seven years’ imprisonment. He was initially jailed in Ambon but then was transferred to Kediri prison, East Java, on March 11, 2009.
- Tuapattinaya was born in Itawaka village on Saparua Island, off the southern Ambon coast, on January 1, 1969. His parents were farmers. After graduating from a technical school in 1990, he got a job as a supervisor at a construction company in East Timor, then under Indonesian rule.
- He was not involved in politics until the fall of President Suharto. In January 1999, President B.J. Habibie, Suharto’s successor, allowed the East Timorese to hold a referendum on independence or remaining an autonomous part of Indonesia. Some East Timorese asked Tuapattinaya for advice on how they should vote in August 1999. “Look at me,” he said he told them. “The Moluccas, my home islands, are very rich but I have to work here. We’re poor under the Indonesians. It’s better if you vote for independence.”
- When he returned to Ambon in July 2000, the area was experiencing brutal sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians that would claim thousands of lives between 1999 and 2005. Tuapattinaya believes authorities acted unfairly in handling the riots: “Many soldiers were deployed to Ambon but why was Ambon still burned down? Why did the Indonesian government permit Javanese militias to operate in Ambon? As a Moluccan, I began to think: who is doing right, who is doing wrong?”
- He began joining in prayers at Alex Manuputty’s residence in the Kudamati area, a predominantly Christian neighborhood in Ambon. When Manuputty, himself a Christian and a popular doctor, declared the founding of the Moluccas Sovereignty Front (Front Kedaulatan Maluku, FKM) on December 18, 2000, Tuapattinaya volunteered to help.
- Indonesian police first arrested Tuapattinaya on April 25, 2 004, after a flag-raising ceremony in Ambon commemorating the 54th anniversary of the RMS. The Ambon district court sentenced him to two years in prison for treason. He was released a year early, on December 25, 2005, for good conduct.
- Tuapattinaya continued his political activism after being released from prison until his re-arrest in June 2007. “For as long as the Indonesian government cannot prove to me that the RMS is illegal, under international law, I will not retreat. Injustice against the people of Moluccas continues. I have never backed away from my commitment. I never hurt anyone.”
- Now in Kediri prison, he shares a cell with five other RMS activists.
- Ruben Saiya is a 27-year-old farmer who was born in Aboru village, Haruku Island, near Ambon. He is now imprisoned in Kembang Kuning prison on Nusa Kambangan Island, off Java’s southern shore. On June 29, 2007, he was one of the 28 dancers who unfurled RMS flags in front of President Yudhoyono. He was arrested and an Ambon district court found him guilty of treason under Criminal Code articles 106 and 110. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison. His two brothers, Arens and Yohanis, also joined the dance protest and they were sentenced for 8 and 17 years respectively and are serving their sentences in Semarang and Kembang Kuning prisons.
- Saiya told Human Rights Watch that the Aboru villagers had decided to dance in a bid to protest their suffering in their own islands. “In the Moluccas, we cannot live a good life. We don’t get a good education. We cannot find work. The Indonesian people have taken over our islands,” he said.
- When the Ambon court announced his sentence, his wife, Johanna Teterisa, collapsed in the court room. “I don’t know what to tell her anymore,” said Saiya. Because of the expense and logistical obstacles his wife cannot travel to Java to visit her husband.
- Ferdinand Waas, born in 1948, was an Indonesian Army officer, stationed in East Timor in the 1980s and 1990s. After his retirement at the rank of captain, he joined the RMS. He allowed RMS activists to use his house to plan the pro-independence dance at Merdeka Stadium in June 2007. He was arrested and in October 2007, an Ambon district court found him guilty of treason and sentenced him to ten years in prison.
- The Waas are the ruling raja family in Hutumuri village, Ambon. His father, Dominggus Waas, replaced his grandfather as the village raja. Ferdinand joined the Indonesian Army and served at the Ambon-based 731st Infantry Battalion and later with the 733rd Para Battalion.
- In 1985, Ferdinand Waas served in East Timor in an Army territorial command post in Manufahi regency. In 1992-1997, the army appointed him to the Same town council in the Manufahi regency.
- In 1999, he retired from the army and returned to his village Hutumuri. The villagers asked him to be their raja and in 2005, the Indonesian government officially inducted him as the Hutumuri village head.
- At the planning meeting in Hutumuri on June 27, 2007, he advised the Aboru dancers not to bring any metal equipment because such equipment might create the impression that the dancers were planning violence. “Their spears, their swords, were all made from wood,” he said. He also advised the dancers on how to get identification cards to permit entrance to the stadium.
- He was arrested along with the dancers at the stadium and detained at the Detachment 88/Anti-Terror in Tantui, Ambon. He said police officers beat him with billiard sticks, pieces of wood, and iron bars. “They knew I was an army captain, so I think they beat me harder, as if I was younger,” he said.