Indonesian police seize Papuan leader Victor Yeimo on ‘treason’ claims

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Arrest of Victor Yeimo
Papuan self-determination campaigner Victor Yeimo arrested as Indonesian security forces impose their crackdown on Papuan resistance since the recent killing of an intelligence general in an ambush by pro-independence guerillas. Image: CNN Indonesia/Sakhorn38

Asia Pacific Report newsdesk

A Papuan leader who has been sought by Indonesian police over the 2019 Papua “Spring” uprising, Victor Yeimo, has been arrested on suspicion of makar (treason, subversion, rebellion), reports CNN Indonesia.

Nemangkawi Task Force head Senior Commissioner Iqbal Alqudusy confirmed the arrest, saying it took place at 7.15 pm on Sunday.

“Today, Sunday May 9, 2021 [we] arrested a person on the wanted list in a case of racism and rioting in Papua in 2019,” Alqudusy told journalists.

Alqudusy said that the 38-year-old man currently held the position of West Papua National Committee (KNPB) chairperson and was also the international spokesperson for the KNPB.

According to Alqudusy, Yeimo is also recorded as being the secretary of the Papua People’s Petition (PRP).

Yeimo was put on the wanted persons list (DPO) in 2019, according to Alqudusy.

The police allege that Yeimo has committed makar and or been broadcasting reports or statements which could “give rise to public unrest”. They also allege that he has been “broadcasting unreliable news”.

Suspected over ‘insult’
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.

“As referred to in the formulation of Article 106 in conjunction with Article 87 of the Criminal Code (KUHP) and or Article 110 of the KUHP and or Article 14 Paragraphs (1) and (2) and Article 15 of Law Number 1/1946 on Criminal Regulations,” the commissioner said.

Victor Yeimo
Victor Yeimo … leader of the West Papua National Committee accused over the 2019 Papuan “spring” demonstrations. Image: Suara Papua

Yeimo was declared a suspect for being the instigator of riots based on witness testimonies that citied him as the “leader of a Papuan independence demonstration” and “vandalising” public facilities.

The allegations stem from accusations against him during the widespread anti-racism protests in Papua in August and September 2019.

The protests spread to a number of cities and towns in the region following highly publicised racist attacks on Papuan students in Java.

Papua crackdown
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 more violent attacks by West Papua National Liberation Army (TLNPB) guerilla fighters who killed an Indonesian intelligence chief in an ambush two weeks ago.

In announcing the official’s death at a news conference in Jakarta, Indonesian president Joko Widodo vowed a military crackdown in Papua.

His government has now also formally declared the National Liberation Army a terrorist organisation, following the decision to designate the “terrorist” categorisation to West Papuan independence fighters in a move that has concerned human rights defenders.

These developments have also happened at a time when internet services to Papua have been disrupted.

CNN Indonesia report translated by James Balowski of IndoLeft News. The original title of the article was “Buron Kasus Kerusuhan Papua Victor Yeimo Diringkus Polisi”.

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