The National, Friday 30th December 2011
THREE West Papuans and a Papua New Guinean have been held at the Boram jail in Wewak for the past six weeks and denied medical and legal assistance, relatives claim.
The three West Papuans are Abraham Kareni, 51; Jude Kambuaya, 61; and Esboren Fonatabai, 30. The PNG citizen is Anton Toto, 39. They had been detained since Nov 17.
Efforts to reach police and customs officials in Wewak and Correctional Service officers at Boram yesterday were unsuccessful.
Relatives claim the detention showed that PNG was under pressure from Indonesia to deny West Papuan refugees legal representation.
The men are expected to appear at the Wewak District Court on Jan 9.
All the men are residents of Wewak and had travelled to Jayapura to attend the Third Congress of West Papua on Oct 20, which was disrupted by Indonesian armed forces, leaving nine dead.
Weeks after eluding Indonesian authorities in Jayapura, the four returned to Kareni’s beach house at Boram opposite the Wewak airport on a banana boat.
The relatives of the four claim that at 5pm on Nov 17, police and customs officers stormed the house.
It is believed that three car loads of police and customs officers, led by a senior police officer and a female customs officer threatened the family at the scene
and destroyed property.
They said the operation occurred after police and customs officials were tipped off on the morning of Nov 17 in Vanimo that a boat was leaving Jayapura for Wewak and should be intercepted because it was carrying weapons and marijuana.
A couple of days after their arrest, East and West Sepik police said the men would be investigated and charged by Internal Revenue Commission officers under the Customs Act for illegal
immigration and smuggling.
Witnesses had said that the police were drunk. One of them, a senior non-commissioned officer repeatedly assaulted Kareni – already sustaining a fractured skull from beatings during the Papuan People’s Congress – “at least eleven times on his head”.
All the men were charged formally on Nov 19 on one
count each of tax evasion.
Customs seized the fuel and the banana boat and a significant amount of engine fuel, together worth an estimated K6,000.
Customs have yet to acknowledge the seizure of the goods, which could rise upwards of K10,000 on the Wewak black market.
Relatives said customs would drop the charge for illegal immigration, and instead charge the four men under the Customs Act for “conveying imported goods without customs control and entry.”