A protester arrested outside the Indonesian Embassy has been fined and released from police custody after being held for almost 24 hours, under what his defence lawyer has described as unusual circumstances.
Adrian ‘AJ’ Van Tonder, 25, was arrested on Friday morning at the rally in Canberra, where he and his fellow protesters lay in the embassy driveway covered in sheets and fake blood.
Van Tonder, a Melbourne student, was with about 30 people protesting alleged human rights abuses by the Indonesian Government in West Papua.
The group blocked vehicles from entering and exiting by lying across the driveway.
This morning Van Tonder pleaded guilty in the ACT Magistrates Court to obstructing the embassy, refusing to provide a name and address and failing to comply with an order to move on.
He was fined $750 and released.
The combined offences carry a maximum penalty of up to $3,800.
The court heard the other protesters gave their details when asked by police to move on, but Van Tonder remained silent.
Van Tonder’s defence said being held in custody overnight on offences that carry fine-only punishments was “not something that would normally happen” and it was not clear why it had.
Magistrate Robert Cook told Van Tonder the right to protest peacefully should be protected.
“You should engage in it and that’s your right,” he said.
But he warned against ignoring police instructions.
“Ultimately then you leave police with no choice than to remove you physically,” he said.
Claims police trying to appease Indonesian Government
A group of fellow protesters supported Van Tonder in court.
Outside, they said his time in custody was unfair and stressful.
“The last 24 hours have been horrible,” Kiah Dennersterin said.
The protesters claim police are being pressured by Indonesia to arrest activists like themselves.
“Police are trying to appease the Indonesian Government and show they’re being strong against West Papuan activists,” another protester Rebecca Langley said.
“Recently there’s been a bit of tension between Indonesia and Australia regarding their military cooperation and it means eyes are on.”
Member of the West Papuan community Ronny Kareni said the arrest would not silence their message to free West Papua.
“It’s evident that the Australian Government is bowing down to Indonesia’s pressure,” he said.
“[The arrest] will only create more fire and fuel more support from people in the streets.”
The group said they travelled to Canberra from Melbourne to take part in this protest and Invasion Day protests.
ACT Policing was contacted for comment.