KNPB renews call to release Victor Yeimo as Papuan activist's health deteriorates

Suara Papua – August 9, 2021
West Papua National Committee Chairperson Agus Kossay – Undated (SP)

Jayapura – The West Papua National Committee (KNPB) is urging the Papua regional police and the Papua chief public prosecutor to immediately release Papuan activist Victor F Yeimo because there is no legal basis for his detention and his health has been deteriorating since his arrest on May 9.

"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 KNPB General Chairperson Agus Kossay in a press release received by Suara Papua on Monday August 9.

And it is not just the KNPB. Kossay said that all components of the Papuan people have been urging the Indonesian government to immediately release Yeimo. "There is only one demand, immediate and unconditional release", he asserted.

According to Kossay, the release of political detainees and prisoners is urgent and Indonesia should follow other countries that have released prisoners in order to prevent and fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Because of this, immediately release the KNPB's international spokesperson. If Victor Yeimo is detained without material evidence and witnesses as a suspect in the August 2019 racism case, then Indonesia itself is reviving the racism issue which is finished", he said.

Kossay asserted that racism against the Papuan people in August 2019 resulted in spontaneous actions throughout Papua which then ended in the death of scores of Papuans, arrests, the torture of thousands of Papuans and even the imprisonment of scores of ordinary people and seven Papuan political prisoners who were tried in the Balikpapan District Court in East Kalimantan.

"Me along with Buchtar Tabuni, Steven Itlay, Alexander Gobay, Ferry Kombo, Hengky Hilapok and Irwanus Uropmabin went through all the court hearings until [we received] a sentence of 11 months [in prison] in Balikpapan. It's over", said Kossay.

Because in legal and organisational terms the representatives of the Papuan people have served their sentences, the racism case no longer exists. Meaning, said Kossay, Yeimo does not need to be detained any longer.

"The Papuan people are the victims of racist slurs. The masterminds behind the huge demonstrations and riots throughout Papua [in August-September 2019] were not the Papuan people. As victims of racism, all components of the Papuan people have already resisted and protested against these racist slurs. We, the seven tapol [political prisoners] have served our sentences in Balikpapan", he said.

Because of this, Kossay in the name of the KNPB asserted, "If this demand is not immediately heeded, then the KNPB will mobilise the West Papuan people to fight racism and the release of Victor Yeimo from prison".

Speaking in the same vein, KNPB spokesperson Ones Suhuniap said that if Yeimo continues to be detained the KNPB will call on all Papuan people and all KNPB activists to get themselves arrested.

"If anything happens to Victor Yeimo, we will hold this to account. Remember it well", asserted Suhuniap.

"Victor Yeimo is being held in isolation at the Mobile Brigade [Brimob) command headquarters detention centre, he gets no fresh air or sunlight. This makes us concerned about his health. Moreover, lately we have seen that his physical condition is deteriorating. Psychologically he is in a cell with is stuffy and damp which is harming his health and could be fatal", he said.

This condition, he said, has been worsened by the lack of access for his family and relatives to visit him at the Brimob detention centre in Kotaraja.

"There should be access for his family and relatives to be able to visit. But this hasn't happened since he was detained three months ago. We believe that the Kapolda Papua [Papua regional police chief] who is ipso facto a child of Papua is indirectly killing Victor Yeimo", said Suhuniap.

Aside from the seven tapols who have already served prison sentences, according to Suhuniap, there are still many others who have been arrested, detained and sentenced in Jayapura, Wamena, Timika, Manokwari, Sorong and Fakfak.

"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", asserted Suhuniap.

Suhuniap believes that a number of racist incidents have taken place in Papua. Because of this, the KNPB is calling on all the Papuan people to urge the Papua regional police chief to immediately and unconditionally release Yeimo because he is not the perpetrator of racism and his physical condition is worsening because of being held in isolation in a cell which is stuffy and damp.

"The KNPB also calls on all the Papuan people, humanitarian organisations, religious institutions, elements of struggle, student organisations, including international solidarity organisations and Indonesian people's solidarity groups to urge the Kapolri [Indonesian police chief] and the Kapolda Papua to immediately release Victor Yeimo without further legal proceedings", said Suhuniap.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "KNPB Serukan Begini Jika Victor Yeimo Tidak Segera Dibebaskan".]