News Desk, Jakarta – Human rights group Amnesty International Indonesia (AII) on Monday called for the release of 76 activists who were arrested in Jayapura, Papua, for distributing flyers, saying the crackdown had been a setback to free speech in the region.
On Monday, police in Jayapura arrested the protesters after staging a rally to call for the release of pro-independence activist Victor Yeimo, who was standing trial for sedition.
"Every week we see the silencing of peaceful expression in Papua. This is worrying [...] we call on the police to release these activists and drop all charges against them," AII executive director Usman Hamid said in a statement.
Usman also criticized the Indonesian Police for cracking down on free speech especially with the use of force in the first instance of protest in Papua.
"The use of force, including an arrest should only be used as a last resort and must be enforced to the highest standard, not as the primary means to block free speech," Usman said.
Victor, 41, who is the international spokesman for the West Papua National Committee, was arrested in Jayapura in May 2021.
He was charged with treason and inciting violence and social unrest in relation to the pro-independence protests that swept the region for several weeks in 2019. Yeimo denied the charges.