Lawyer Veronica Koman joins calls to free Papuan activist Victor Yeimo

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Victor Yeimo
Victor Yeimo (left) accompanied by a lawyer being questioned virtually by a prosecutor. Image: KPHHP/File

Asia Pacific Report newsdesk

Lawyer and human rights activist Veronica Koman has spoken out about the worsening health of Papuan activist Victor Yeimo who has been detained at the Mobile Brigade command headquarters detention centre (Rutan Mako Brimob) for the last three months, reports Suara Papua.

“Victor Yeimo will not be safe if he remains behind [the bars] of a colonial prison. Colonialism will continue to demand political sacrifices,” wrote Koman on her Facebook on Monday.

Koman said that Yeimo’s imprisonment is part of the colonisation of the Papuan people’s dignity which had been going on for decades.

“The imprisonment of Victor is a problem of trampling on the West Papuan people’s dignity: The West Papuan people aren’t allowed to fight racism, the West Papuan people aren’t allowed to speak about self-determination — even in a peaceful manner,” she wrote.

Koman believes that moving Yeimo, who is in a weak condition, to Abepura prison is the same as moving him from one “tiger’s den” to another.

“The Abepura prison is over-capacity, so it’s a nest of covid-19. Because of this, [we must] unite in the demand: Release Victor Yeimo right now!” said Koman.

Yeimo, who is the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) international spokesperson and spokesperson for the Papua People’s Petition (PRP), was arrested by police in the Tanah Hitam area of Abepura in Jayapura city on May 9.

He was detained at the Papua regional police headquarters before being transferred to the Brimob detention centre.

Since his arrest there have been ongoing calls for his release from the charges against him. The charges and lack of access to lawyers and family are considered not to be in accordance with the law.

Because of this, the government of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is being urged to immediately release Yeimo along with all Papuan students and people from prisons in Indonesia.

“Victor Yeimo is not the perpetrator of racism. He is in fact a victim of racism. He was not involved in the [August-September 2019] riots in Jayapura city.

“Why after three months is he still being held at the Papua Brimob? His health is deteriorating. We are asking that he be released immediately from prison,” said Sam Gobay, who is on the management board of the Mee ethnic group traditional council in Mimika regency.

From information received by Gobay, Yeimo’s health had deteriorated drastically.

“There is no access to healthcare for Victor Yeimo. He’s ill, he’s not being allowed treatment. He also isn’t being given food. All access is restricted.

“What is the plan for Victor Yeimo? We’re asking for Victor’s immediate release”, he said.

The arrest of detention of Yeimo is seen as part of curbing democratic space and even an effort to criminalise Papuan activists.

“What kind of legal basis is there for the state to discriminate against Victor Yeimo. He is not a perpetrator of racism, let alone labeling him as committing makar [treason, rebellion, sedition].

“Everyone knows that Victor Yeimo was not involved in the demonstrations which ended in riots in Jayapura city,” said Gobay.

“The Papuan people are urging Bapak [Mr] Jokowi to immediately urge the Indonesian police chief and the Papuan regional police chief to release Victor Yeimo from the Brimob detention centre,” said Gobay.

A similar statement was made by KNPB general chairperson Agus Kossay in a press release on Monday.

The KNPB is urging the Papuan regional police and the Papua chief public prosecutor to immediately release Yeimo. According to Kossay, Yeimo had been detained without legal basis and his health continued to deteriorate.

“For the sake of humanity and the authority of the Indonesian state, immediately release Victor Yeimo and all Papuan independence activists who have been arrested without [legal] grounds, evidence or witnesses. The Papuan people are not the perpetrators of racism,” said Kossay.

KNPB spokesperson Ones Suhuniap, meanwhile, said that if Yeimo was not released then the KNPB would call on all Papuan people and all KNPB activists to get themselves arrested by police.

He also believes that the Papua regional police and the prosecutor’s office have violated Indonesian law.

“Victor Yeimo must be released for the sake of the law because based on the KUHP [Criminal Code] the 60 day period of detention has already passed, but the addition of 30 more days detention for Victor Yeimo violates the law itself,” said Suhuniap.

Earlier, Yeimo’s lawyer Emanuel Gobay, who is from the Papua Law Enforcement and Human Rights Coalition (KPHHP), urged the Papuan and Jayapura chief prosecutors to respond to their call to transfer Yeimo from the Brimob detention centre to Abepura prison.

This call, according to Gobay, is based on the fact that Yeimo had been incarcerated at the Brimob detention centre since May 10 and his rights as a suspect had not been met.

“When the prosecutor questioned Victor Yeimo in relation to matters that he wished to convey, Victor asked to be transferred from the Rutan Mako Brimob to the Abepura prison in consideration of meeting his rights as a suspect.

“Victor argued that since the start of his detention at the Papua regional police Mako Brimob he has been neglected because of the Mako Brimob’s standard operating procedures. Also because of his psychological condition as a result of being left alone in a stuffy cell which could endanger his health,” explained Gobay.

Unfortunately, said the director of the Papua Legal Aid Foundation (LBH), the prosecutor failed to respond professionally to Yeimo’s request.

“The Papua chief public prosecutor [must] immediately instruct the Papua chief public prosecutor supervising prosecutor acting as the Jayapura chief public prosecutor supervising prosecutor to examine the prosecutor who received the dossier of the suspect in the name of Victor F Yeimo which was not conducted in accordance with the instructions of Article 8 Paragraph (3) b of Law Number 8/1981,” he said.

Also, the head of the Papua representative office of the Ombudsman of the Republic of Indonesia has been asked to supervise the Jayapura district attorney’s office in its implementation of Yeimo’s rights as a suspect which is guaranteed under Law Number 8/1981.

This call was made after the Papua regional police investigators handed Yeimo’s dossier over to the Jayapura district attorney’s office on August 6.

Translated by James Balowski for IndoLeft News. Abridged slightly due to repetition and for clarity. The original title of the article was “Ini Pendapat Veronica Koman Terhadap Kondisi Victor Yeimo”.

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