• Press Release

Indonesia must investigate death of Maluku activist

March 27, 2011

Indonesia must investigate death of Maluku activist

13 September 2010

The Indonesian government has been urged to investigate today’s death of a Maluku political activist who was denied urgent medical care in prison.

Yusuf Sapakoly, 52, died of kidney failure in a hospital in Ambon after being refused access to adequate medical assistance by prison authorities.

The father-of-four was arrested in 2007 for assisting a group of peaceful political activists who unfurled the “Benang Raja” flag, a symbol of South Maluku independence, in front of the Indonesian president.

"The denial of urgently needed medical care to Yusuf Sapakoly amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment by prison authorities.." said Donna Guest, Asia-Pacific Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

"The Indonesian government must immediately initiate an independent, effective, and impartial inquiry into allegations that he was denied medical care."

Yusuf Sapakoly required dialysis for kidney failure but was consistently denied treatment by authorities at Nania prison, according to local sources. He also said he did not receive adequate treatment for rib injuries he had suffered in detention.

Prison authorities released the activist into the care of his family on 7 September as his condition deteriorated, but he was still considered a prisoner.

Yusuf Sapakoly was arrested on 29 June 2007 after activists unfurled the “Benang Raja” flag, while performing a traditional “Cakalele” dance, in front of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

After reportedly being tortured in detention, he was charged with “rebellion” and sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment. 

"The treatment of Yusuf Sapakoly violates Indonesia’s obligations under international human rights law, as well as Indonesian law," said Donna Guest.

Amnesty International has highlighted two other recent cases where Indonesian prisoners of conscience have seen their right to health violated.

In July, Papuan prisoner of conscience Filep Karma had to wait nine months for permission from the authorities to travel to Jakarta from Abepura prison for prostate surgery.

Johan Teterissa, the leader of the “Cakalele” dancers from Maluku, has also not received adequate medical treatment for injuries he suffered after being beaten and kicked by police officers in 2007. He says he can no longer see properly and cannot sleep as a result of the pain he suffers.

"The Indonesian government must review the prison health services and ensure that all prisoners have adequate access to regular health check-ups and are provided with proper medical care in accordance with their specific needs," said Donna Guest.