Papua rights activist Victor Yeimo rejects treason charges

Suara Papua – February 22, 2022
KNPB international spokesperson Victor Yeimo (bottom left) at Jayapura District Court – February 21, 2022 (SP)

Atamus Kepno, Jayapura – The preliminary court hearing against West Papua National Committee (KNPB) international spokesperson Victor Yeimo was held at the Jayapura District Court in Abepura, Papua, on Monday February 21.

During the hearing, the public prosecutor read out the indictment in which he charged Yeimo under the makar (treason, subversion, rebellion) articles.

The defense believes that the charges are excessive because what happened in August 2019 was a response to the racism which is rooted in the nature of the Indonesian population against Papuans.

The prosecution said that during the protest actions which ended in riots on August 29, 2019, there was verbal as well as written involvement of the defendant along with his colleague the chairperson of the KNPB, Agus Kossay, in demonstrations which were facilitated by the chairpersons of the Student Executive Council (BEM) in Jayapura.

"They [the chairpersons of the West Papua National Parliament (PNWP), the Federal Republic of West Papua (NRFPB), the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation (WPNCL) and the Free West Papua Campaign (FWPC), together with the defendant], called for, and took part in committing the act of makar with the maximum [aim] of all or part of the country's territory [separating from Indonesia]", said prosecutor Andrianus Y. Tomana in reading out the charge sheet at the Jayapura District Court on Monday.

According to the prosecutor, the defendant is being indicted for crimes under Article 106 of the Criminal Code (KUHP) in conjunction with Article 55 Paragraph (1) on the crime of makar, Article 110 Paragraph 1 of the KUHP on criminal conspiracy to commit a crime, and Article 110 Paragraph 2 on endeavoring to mobilise people or call on people to commit a crime.

"An alliance of several organisations made up of the PNWP, the NRFPB, the WPNCL and the FWPC, conducted political mobilisations overseas to get international political support so that it would be taken to and be discussed at the United Nations [General] Assembly in order to obtain political rights in the form of a referendum for Papuan independence", said the prosecutor.

In response, Yeimo conceded that it was true that he was involved as a participant in the anti-racist demonstration on August 19, 2019, however the action proceeded without problems and after it finished the protesters returned home in an orderly manner.

"I was arrested only because of the racism case, indeed I was involved and it's true there were speeches. But it was not just me that gave speeches, the DPRP [Papua Regional House of Representatives] spoke, the governor spoke, all of the Papuan people spoke at the time. So if I'm being tried, why aren't they being tried", he asked.

Yeimo explained that he attended along with other Papuan people in order to oppose and to fight against racism in the form of a demonstration and this opposition was conveyed peacefully at the Papua governor's office.

"I was involved in providing security for the Papuan protesters heading towards the governor's office, we conveyed our aspirations transparently at the governor's office, we returned home peacefully without incident. So I reject the charge of makar because the prosecutor is fabricating it all", he asserted.

Yeimo rejected the prosecutor's charges because racism is the mutual enemy of individuals, groups and institutions, nationally as well as internationally. So following the hate speech against the Papuan students in Surabaya, East Java, all the Papuan people felt struck to the core.

"The DPRP, the governor, everyone who exits in this land was struck to the core by these racist actions. I am a human being, not an animal, I'm not a monkey, I was struck to the core and I was involved in the anti-racist actions and I have the right to defend my nation", he said.

Meanwhile with regard to the actions which followed, Yeimo claimed he was not involved as an individual or organisationally in organising or planning the follow up actions.

"Indeed I myself was not involved there because I know that the second round of actions were organised by other parties to intentionally damage our struggle in Papua. To intentionally play people off against one another, migrants against indigenous Papuans", he explained.

Yeimo said he believes that the prosecutor's indictment is full of wild assumptions which involve the actions of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), the PNWP, the NRFPB, the WPNCL and the FWPC. He rejects the charges in subjective as well as objective terms.

"If you want to try [ULMWP Chairperson] Benny Wenda then please go ahead and try Benny Wanda, [ULMWP Deputy Chairperson] Buchtar Tabuni, [ULMWP Legislative Committee Chairperson] Edison Waromi, the ULMWP, the KNPB leadership, please go ahead and try them. If there is another case besides the racist incident please go ahead and try it because I think that it has already been tried", he said.

Yeimo said that he is not guilty in the case involving the actions against racism because racism is our mutual enemy.

"I am in no way guilty in this case because my involvement in the actions against racism was because racism is our mutual enemy. All of us, so we will fight together so if this hearing is to proceed properly I ask that this case be as just as possible", he said.

Victor Yiemo's lawyer meanwhile, Gustaf Kawer, said that his client is ill and must receive routine treatment.

"The condition of the defendant is that he is ill and is undergoing a six month program of treatment which was extended again to nine months. So there is still five more months", he explained.

Kawer said he hopes that the judges and the prosecution will look carefully at the medical condition of the defendant so the hearings can proceed smoothly.

"The defendant also [unclear] health is not upset by of course a process which is other then smooth, this is justice that must exist for the defendant", he said.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Victor Yeimo: Saya Tolak Dituntut Makar".]