Washington, D.C.: Freedom Now is pleased to announce that Papuan activist Filep Samuel Karma was released from prison yesterday, five years before the end of his 15 year sentence. The early release was timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Indonesia’s independence from the Netherlands. Mr. Karma’s unconditional release occurred after considerable international attention to his case, most recently a letter signed by six Members of the U.S. Congress.
“We are relieved to know that Mr. Karma is free – but, the Indonesian government continues to systematically persecute its citizens for exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and assembly,” said Freedom Now’s executive director Maran Turner. “We hope that when President Joko Widodo visits the U.S. this fall President Obama will urge him to respect international law and free peaceful activists who remain in Indonesia’s prisons.”
Mr. Karma is one of the most prominent advocates for Papuan independence. He was formerly a civil servant for the Indonesian government, assigned to the Education and Training Department in Jayapura, the provincial capital of Papua. He was arrested on December 1, 2004, for organizing and participating in a ceremony at Trikora Field in Abepura, Paupa, at which several hundred peaceful activists gathered to raise the Papuan Morning Star flag and celebrate the anniversary of the 1961 Papuan declaration of independence from Dutch rule.
Although Mr. Karma has explicitly denounced the use of violence, he was charged with treason and sentenced to 15 years in prison in May 2005. In 2011, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled Mr. Karma’s detention as arbitrary and called for his immediate release.