JAKARTA, Indonesia – A Polish man detained in Indonesia’s troubled Papua region on suspicion of links to separatists will be tried there instead of being deported, police said Friday.
Jakub Fabian Skrzypski, 39, described by police as a journalist, was arrested several days ago in Wamena, the capital of the mountainous district of Jayawijaya, following the arrests of five Papuans who had a quantity of ammunition.
Papua police spokesman Ahmad Mustofa Kamal said Skrzypski would be charged with involvement in a treasonous plot, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
“He committed his crime here, therefore he will face the legal process here,” Kamal told The Associated Press.
Indonesia restricts foreign journalists from entering its two easternmost provinces, Papua and West Papua, where a pro-independence insurgency fought by the indigenous Melanesian population has simmered for decades.
Police and military reports seen by AP said Skrzypski had a long association with a rebel commander and was trying to reach one of their camps.
The decision to prosecute rather than deport Skrzypski may reflect an Indonesian government desire to more strongly deter foreign involvement with the Papuan independence movement, which has vocal sympathizers in numerous Pacific island and Western nations including Vanuatu, the U.K., New Zealand and Australia.
Indonesia annexed the Dutch-controlled half of the island of New Guinea in 1963 but decades later large areas of territory remain outside of its control. Police and military are frequently attacked and killed by rebels, while Indonesian security forces have been accused of dozens of unlawful killings in the past decade, including targeted slayings of political activists.
Kamal said Skrzypski is being treated the same as other prisoners.
“He gets the same facilities,” he said.
Prominent human rights lawyer Gustaf Kawer, who visited Skrzypski earlier in the week, said he is being held in an inadequately ventilated cell, given poor food and hasn’t been able to contact family or change his clothes.
In Warsaw, the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that Polish diplomats in Jakarta have filed a request with the Indonesian government to be allowed to see the detained citizen and are awaiting a decision. The foreign ministry and embassy in Jakarta did not immediately respond to questions Friday.
Earlier this month, an Australian graduate student whose travel plans in Indonesia included a cultural festival in Papua was denied entry on arrival in Bali and deported because Indonesia’s military had blacklisted her as a “covert journalist.”
A decade earlier she had worked as an editor for English-language newspapers in Jakarta and had also produced podcasts for Australia’s state broadcaster.