Police accuse Papua’s pro-independence leader of being the “brain” behind the 2019 civil unrest.
Indonesian authorities have arrested Papuan pro-independence leader Victor Yeimo, a police spokesman said, on charges of orchestrating some of the most serious civil unrest in the 2019 decades.
Yeimo, who is the international spokesman for the West Papua National Committee, was arrested Sunday in the provincial capital of Jayapura and is being questioned, Iqbal Alqudusy told Reuters news agency on Monday.
Police accuse the 38-year-old of being the “brain” of the protests that erupted in 2019 and of committing treason, as well as inciting violence and social unrest, insulting the national flag and anthem and carrying weapons without permission.
Very worried about the arrest of #WestPapua the pro-independence Victor Yeimo. He runs the risk of being tortured or ill-treated by Indonesian security forces and should be given immediate access to legal representation.https://t.co/zDppHpTc3R pic.twitter.com/xKLqa0P2BM
– Josef Benedict (@ josefroy2) May 10, 2021
21/05/21 Jayapura, West Papua
Victor Yeimo, a peaceful grassroots leader who had been in hiding, was arrested. He is wanted for treason for his role in the 2019 West Papua Uprising. pic.twitter.com/bQHR1aQGq4
– Veronica Koman Akane Xu (@VeronicaKoman) May 9, 2021
His arrest came amid growing tensions in Indonesia’s easternmost provinces, with President Joko Widodo calling for crackdown after a senior intelligence figure was shot dead late last month.
Emanuel Gobay, one of a group of Papuan lawyers representing Yeimo, said his client had not yet been officially charged.
Betrayal can lead to life imprisonment.
Protests of 2019
The protests rocked the provinces of Indonesia, Papua and West Papua, on the island of New Guinea, collectively known as Papua, for several weeks in August 2019.
The riots, sometimes violent, erupted after a mob mocked Papuan students in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second city on the island of Java, with racial epithets calling them “monkeys” on charges of desecrating a national flag.
The 2019 protests also propelled Indonesia’s independence.
Papuan separatists have been betting on independence for decades, saying a 1969 UN-sponsored vote that brought the region under Indonesian control was illegitimate.
Indonesia rejects claims.
In a development that has alarmed rights activists, Indonesia’s security minister has announced that Papua’s armed separatists can be legally designated as “terrorists” and prosecuted under the anti-terrorism law.
Yeimo’s arrest could further aggravate the situation, said Indonesian human rights lawyer Veronica Koman.
“Since the news broke that he was arrested, many West Papuans have already announced that they will take to the streets to demand their release,” he said.