A Papuan leader sought by Indonesian police over the 2019 Papua “Spring” uprising, Victor Yeimo, has been arrested on suspicion of treason, subversion, or rebellion.
According to a report by CNN Indonesia, translated by indoleft.org for Asia Pacific Report, Nemangkawi Task Force head Senior Commissioner Iqbal Alqudusy confirmed the arrest, telling journalists: “Today, Sunday May 9, 2021 [we] arrested a person on the wanted list in a case of racism and rioting in Papua in 2019.”
According to Papuans Behind Bars, Yeimo was the General Secretary of the West Papua National Committee (Komite Nasional Papua Barat, KNPB) until 2018. Currently he is the international spokesperson for KNPB and Papuan People’s Petition (PRP).
According to CNN, the police allege that Yeimo has committed makar and/or has been broadcasting reports or statements that could “give rise to public unrest”. They also allege that he has been “broadcasting unreliable news”.
Yeimo is suspected of insulting the Indonesian national flag, language and state symbols as well as the national anthem and/or incitement to commit a crime under Indonesia’s Criminal Code and Criminal Regulations law.
CNN reported that Yeimo is suspected of instigating riots based on witness testimonies that cited him as the “leader of a Papuan independence demonstration” and of “vandalising” public facilities.
The allegations stem from accusations against him during widespread anti-racism protests in Papua in August and September 2019.
Papuans Behind Bars (PBB) reported that Yeimo was arrested at a kiosk in Jayapura on May 9, without an arrest warrant. His lawyers received arrest and detention warrants the following day, “in breach of Indonesian criminal procedure law which requires an arrest warrant to be presented at the time of arrest”.
RNZ Pacific reports that Yeimo is the latest of a number of Papuans to have been detained over alleged treason following the protests, including the so-called “Balikpapan Seven” who subsequently received jail terms of between 10 and 11 months in East Kalimantan.
During the Balikpapan Seven trials, judges and prosecutors repeatedly focussed on Yeimo when questioning the defendants.
Yeimo has been calling for negotiations between the West Papuan independence movement and Indonesia’s government, saying Papuans would not stop demanding a legitimate self-determination process.
His arrest came as Indonesian military operations in Papua region intensified, in response to the killing of an Indonesian intelligence chief in an ambush two weeks ago.
Indonesian president Joko Widodo ordered a military crackdown in Papua and his government has now formally declared the West Papuan National Liberation Army a terrorist organisation.
These developments have also happened at a time when internet services to Papua have been disrupted.
According to PBB, the Papua police chief reportedly said: “We are looking into all police reports, the process forward will proceed based on each report, let him get old in prison.”
Yeimo has already been interrogated twice without a lawyer present — permissible under Indonesia law for treason charges — and PBB is concerned that Yeimo will be further interrogated and more charges will be laid against him.
“Arresting Mr Yeimo, then digging his past acts through days of interrogation, reflects intention to frame and arbitrarily detain [him],” said PBB.
Yeimo is being held in in a cell, “where the sunlight is only available through ventilation at the top of his cell and from the main door” and has been prevented from having access to family visits.