Thousands turn out to welcome Papua activist Victor Yeimo's release from prison

Suara Papua – September 23, 2023
Thousands of supporters greet Victor Yeimo at Expo Waena – September 23, 2023 (SP)

Agus Pabika, Jayapura – West Papua National Committee (KNPB) international spokesperson Victor F. Yeimo was released from the Abepura Penitentiary in Jayapura city on Saturday September 23. He was greeted by family members, activists, his team of lawyers and thousands of ordinary Papuans.

On May 5 Yeimo was sentenced to eight months in prison after being indicted on charges of makar (treason, subversion, rebellion) and insulting the government for allegedly being involved in and mobilising anti-racism protests in Jayapura on August 19 and 29, 2019.

At exactly 11.17 am, Yeimo was escorted out of the Abepura Penitentiary by prison officials.

He was then greeted by family members and his team of lawyers from the Papua Law Enforcement and Human Rights Coalition (KPHHP), advocates Emanuel Gobay, Persila Heselo, Gustaf Kawer and other team members. Also present was Papua Regional House of Representatives (DPRD) lawmaker Laurenzus Kadepa.

Yeimo said that his release today is not the end of the struggle and called on all Papuan people to continue to fight racist discrimination.

"Today I am free, but the continuing struggle is to be free from racism that still exists in [and is still a festering wound in this country]", said Yeimo.

Yeimo was then accompanied in a procession to the Waena Expo to take part in a thanksgiving event to celebrate his release. The procession and thanksgiving event were closely watched over by police.

Activists blocked by police

However scores of activists who went to the Abepura Penitentiary to pick Yeimo up were initially blocked by police at the Abepura taxi traffic circle.

An argument broke out between the activists, Yeimo's team of lawyers and the police who were on guard in front of the Sumber Makmur shop. In the end however, they were allowed to greet Yeimo at the prison.

During the procession from the Abepura prison, Yeimo and his entourage were closely guarded by police until they reached the Waena Expo where the thanksgiving event was to be held.

Also present at the thanksgiving was acting Papua Council of Churches moderator Benny Giay and United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) Secretary Markus Haluk.

The thanksgiving was held under the theme "Racism is a Global Enemy".

When Yeimo arrived, he was greeted by thousands of supporters, traditional dances by different tribal groups and shouts of "Free Papua".

A number of those present wore the Moring Star independence symbol on their bodies or noken (knitted or woven bags). Others unfurled KNPB flags.

"All of the resistance groups have joined us here. The KNPB, the Papuan Traditional Council, Sonamapa [West Papua Youth and Student National Solidarity], Green Papua and all of the people and student movements that have joined in", said organising committee head Kamus Bayage in welcoming Yeimo's release.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Victor Yeimo Disambut Ribuan Rakyat Papua Dengan Ibadah Syukur".]