Konradus Epa, Jakarta – Churches and rights groups have accused Indonesian police of illegally detaining Victor Yeimo, the international spokesman for the pro-independence West Papua National Committee (KNBP), and called for his immediate release.
They say he has been detained in a local police jail for more than 60 days and faces further detention after police illegally extended the period for another 30 days.
Yeimo, 37, was arrested on May 9 in the provincial capital Jayapura and charged with treason for allegedly masterminding anti-racism riots in August 2019 in cities across the province.
More than 30 people were killed and many public buildings were damaged.
The violence followed the arrest of a group of Papuan students in Surabaya, East Java, who were also racially abused by people who accused them of desecrating an Indonesian flag.
On July 11, at least 23 church and rights groups, including Jayapura Diocese's Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, the Indonesian Christian Church in Tanah Papua and the Papua Legal Aid Institute, issued a statement calling for Yeimo's release.
Yeimo's detention will worsen the situation in Papua. We must settle the Papuan problem through dialogue
"We call on Listyo Sigit Prabowo as chief of the Indonesian National Police to order Yeimo's release," the groups said.
They said Yeimo's detention and the charges laid against him were politically motivated and that the government had an obligation to uphold human rights.
Yeimo should have been freed on July 8, they said, adding that after 60 days investigators should have released him from the police jail.
Police said Yeimo was detained further because investigations were ongoing.
Father Alberto John Bunay, coordinator of the Papuan Indigenous Priests Forum, called Yeimo's continued detention illegal and provocative.
"Yeimo's detention will worsen the situation in Papua. We must settle the Papuan problem through dialogue," said the priest, who is also coordinator of the Papua Peace Network.