Prolonged detention of Papuan leader sparks outcry


Churches and rights groups accused Indonesian police of illegally detaining Victor Yeimo, the international spokesperson for the West Papua National Independence Committee (KNBP), and called for his immediate release.

They say he has been held in a local police prison for more than 60 days and faces further detention after police illegally extended the 30-day period.

Yeimo, 37, was arrested on May 9 in the provincial capital Jayapura and charged with treason for allegedly organizing anti-racist riots in August 2019 in towns across the province.

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More than 30 people were killed and many public buildings were damaged.

The violence followed the arrest of a group of Papuan students in Surabaya, east Java, who were also racially abused by people accusing them of desecrating an Indonesian flag .

On July 11, at least 23 faith and advocacy groups, including Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation of the Diocese of Jayapura, the Indonesian Christian Church of Tanah Papua and the Papua Legal Aid Institute, released a statement calling for the release of Yeimo.

Yeimo’s detention will worsen the situation in Papua. We must solve the Papuan problem through dialogue

“We call on Listyo Sigit Prabowo as head of the Indonesian National Police to order Yeimo’s release,” the groups said.

They said Yeimo’s detention and charges against him were politically motivated and that the government had an obligation to respect human rights.

Yeimo should have been released on July 8, they said, adding that after 60 days, investigators should have released him from the police prison.

Police said Yeimo was detained further because investigations were ongoing.

Father Alberto John Bunay, coordinator of the Forum of Indigenous Papuan Priests, called Yeimo’s continued detention illegal and provocative.

“Yeimo’s detention will worsen the situation in Papua. We have to solve the Papua problem through dialogue, ”said the priest, who is also the coordinator of the Papua Peace Network.

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