12 Jun 2020

Papua police say inmates escaped from hospital

8:36 am on 12 June 2020

Indonesian police in West Papua say four prisoners isolated for suspected Covid-19 infection have escaped.

Police say four inmates escaped from Bhayangkara Police Hospital on Wednesday and are still at large.

Indonesian police confront West Papuan demonstrators in Jayapura, August 2019.

Indonesian police confront a West Papuan during one of widespread anti-racism protests in Papua in August 2019. Photo: Whens Tebay

A number of prisoners, including Papuan independence activists, had recently been transferred to a hospital in Papua's capital Jayapura.

The escaped prisoners broke down the bars in their hospital room windows according to police spokesperson A.M. Kamal.

However Sr. Comr. Kamal has confirmed that Basoka Logo, the Head of the Political Bureau of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, remains in the hospital.

Mr Kamal says Logo is being held for alleged forgery of official documents.

However, sources say he has been detained since offering himself to police as a guarantee for the release of hundreds of Papuan students detained after widespread anti-racism protests last August.

The Liberation Movement has questioned the police version of events regarding prisoners transferred to prison among the ongoing threat of Covid-19, with the number of cases of the virus surging in Indonesia.

The Movement claimed Indonesian authorities had not taken up a recommendation by the UN over two months ago for the release of political prisoners from the country's overcrowded prisons.

While a number of general prisoners were released, Papuans who have been charged with treason-related charges after last year's protests were not among them.

Human Rights Watch today urged Indonesian authorities to drop all charges and release seven Papuan activists and students on trial for their involvement in the anti-racism protests in Jayapura last August.

Prosecutors have sought prison sentences of between five and seventeen years for the defendants.

Meanwhile, with police still pursuing the inmates who reportedly escaped, the families of the four prisoners have been asked to co-operate with authorities to have them recaptured.