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Letter calling for release of West Papua activist Victor Yeimo

West Papua Action Auckland - August 16, 2021

16 August 2021

Hon Nanaia Mahuta
Parliament Buildings

Kia ora Nanaia Mahuta

We are writing to you again concerning West Papuan activist Victor Yeimo. His situation is seriously deteriorating and we strongly urge you to intervene using your good offices with the Government of Indonesia to help protect Victor and his rights under international law.

As you know Victor is the international spokesman for the pro-independence West Papua National Committee (KNBP), an organisation dedicated to non-violent civic action. Since we wrote on this matter last month, Victor has remained in detention without trial at the Mobile Brigade (Brimob) headquarters detention centre in Abepura, close to the capital, Jayapura. He is being held in an isolation cell with restricted access to his family and lawyer. Most worrying is his medical condition which is being exacerbated by his prison conditions and lack of access to fresh air and sunlight. We understand that he is now losing weight and has been coughing blood in the last few days.

Mr Yeimo faces a number of charges including violating the Indonesian Criminal Code (KUHP), namely Article 106 on treason andArticle 110 of the KUHP on treason with conspiracy. In addition he is also accused of several other offences including disrespecting the national flag, charges of incitement and collective violence. At the time of his arrest the Papua Police Chief said that more charges could be added and added the ominous comment 'let him get old in prison.'

To put this in context, these charges all relate to Mr Yeimo's role during the protests that took place in West Papua during the period 19 August-30 September 2019. As you know, these protests occurred as a response to a violent racist attack on Papuan students studying in Surabaya. There were anti-racism or 'Papuan lives matter' uprising all across West Papua and Indonesia at the time – involving some 23 towns in West Papua, 17 cities in Indonesia, and 3 cities. This led to the prosecution of 122 West Papuans were prosecuted.

It is understood that Mr Yeimo was supposed to have been tried in 2020 alongside seven other prominent anti-racism activists known as the 'Balikpapan Seven', but instead he escaped to Papua New Guinea, only returning at the end of the year. The trial of the Balikpapan Seven (they were moved from Jayapura to Balikpapan in South Kalimantan province) attracted Indonesian and international controversy. Ultimately, they were sentenced to up to eleven months in prison, despite the prosecutors seeking sentences of up to 17 years.

The Indonesian authorities regularly use criminal code provisions, mainly Articles 106 and 110 KUHP, to prosecute peaceful pro-independence political activists in Papua, when all they are doing is legitimately exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

Victor's situation is now the focus of widespread international concern and Amnesty International is advocating for his immediate release, unless credible evidence can to put forward and he can be granted a fair trial in line with international standards. Amnesty also urge that Victor should have access to his family, the lawyer of his choice and be protected from torture and have access to medical care.

We call on you to support the urgent international call for Victor's release and his immediate access to good medical care.

Nga mihi nui,Catherine Delahunty
Brian Turner
Maire Leadbeater
West Papua Action Aotearoa

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