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Activist seeks end to Indonesian detention center isolation

Fears grow over health, treatment of detained Papuan leader Victor Yeimo

Activist seeks end to Indonesian detention center isolation

Victor Yeimo (left) and his lawyer Emmanuel Gobay (center) are questioned by police in May. (Photo: KPHHP)

An ailing Papuan activist detained in an Indonesian police detention center for the last three months has called on authorities to move him to a prison in Jayapura, the capital of Papua province.

Victor Yeimo, 37, says his health is worsening and his legal rights are being violated by being kept in isolation for so long.

He was arrested on May 9 in Jayapura and charged with treason for allegedly masterminding anti-racism riots in August 2019 in cities across the province, a charge which he denies.

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

Yeimo, the general secretary and spokesman of the West Papuan National Committee, requested he be moved in a letter delivered by his lawyers to the prosecutor's office in Papua on Aug. 9

At least 20 church and rights groups, including the Franciscan Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC OFM), the Indonesian Christian Church in Tanah Papua, and the Legal Aid Institute in Papua, say the charges against Yeimo are trumped up and have called for his immediate release or at the very least for him to be moved from where he is now.

The imprisonment of Victor tramples on the West Papuan people’s dignity

“We want to protect Yeimo, particularly his rights as a suspect,” Emmanuel Gobay, director of the Legal Aid Institute in Papua and Yeimo’s lawyer, told UCA News.

“There is no access to health care for Victor Yeimo. He’s ill, he’s not being allowed treatment. He also isn’t being given food. All access is restricted,” he said.

The activist is believed to be suffering from a lung condition.

Lawyer and human rights activist Veronica Koman also called for Yeimo’s release, saying moving him would also be in breach of his rights. 

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“The imprisonment of Victor tramples on the West Papuan people’s dignity. The West Papuan people aren’t allowed to fight racism, the West Papuan people aren’t allowed to speak about self-determination — even in a peaceful manner,” Koman wrote in a Facebook post on Aug. 11.

She also said moving the activist to Abepura prison in Jayapura would not alleviate health concerns.

“Abepura prison is overcrowded and is a nest of Covid-19. Because of this, [we must] unite to demand the release of Victor Yeimo right now,” Koman said.

Amnesty International Indonesia has also called for Yeimo’s release, saying there was no evidence he committed the crimes he was accused of. 

In the meantime, “we also urge that access to Yeimo is granted and that he gets proper medical care,” said Usman Hamid, executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia.

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