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Arrest of TPNPB leader in Paniai fuels tensions between joint security forces and TPNPB

Human Rights Monitor - May 29, 2024

The arrest of Peni Petrus Pekei, also known as Petrus Pekei, by the Cartenz Peace Operation Task Force Cartenz and the Dogiyai Police on 17 May 2024, has sparked controversy in Paniai, Central Papua.

Pekei, allegedly the General Operations Commander for the TPNPB-OPM (West Papua National Liberation Army-Free Papua Organisation) in the Dokoge-Paniai region, was arrested near Paniai.

Papua Police claim Pekei is responsible for extortion, threats, violent theft, and illegal possession of a firearm in Yatamo district on 31 January 2015. The alleged victim is Nicolas Worabay. Additionally, authorities state Pekei has been on the wanted list since 11 November 2016.

TPNPB-OPM denies accusations

Otto Jimmi Magai Yogi, head of the TPNPB-OPM Dokoge-Paniai Army, emphatically denies all charges against Pekei. Yogi affirms that Pekei has never been involved in a case of violence that threatened the sovereignty of Indonesia.

In a video message sent to media outlets on 20 May 2024, Yogi disputed the Papua Police's claims through the Cartenz Peace Task Force. He argues the accusations actually pertain to himself and his colleagues, Damianus Magai Yogi and Aloysius Kayame.

According to Yogi, they served sentences between 2016 and August 2017 at the Papua Regional Police and Nabire Penitentiary. Yogi claims they were teenagers at the time of the incident, following the death of their leader, Leo Magai Yogi, in a 2014 shootout with security forces in Nabire.

"The main perpetrator was the late Leo Magai Yogi," Yogi asserted. "We, including myself, Damianus Magai Yogi and Aloysius Kayame, were arrested by the Papua Regional Police in Jayapura. We served sentences in both the regional police and the Nabire District Court. The firearm was also returned to the authorities through the Paniai Regional Police."

Yogi further argues that all accusations against Pekei are false and designed to create instability in a previously peaceful region. He reiterated his claim that they served sentences in Nabire Prison between 2016 and 2017.

Yogi also denied Pekei's involvement in the shooting of a military district chief (Danramil). He additionally challenged the claim that Pekei was on a wanted list (DPO) prior to his arrest.

"We have never seen any official document declaring Peni Pekei a wanted man," Yogi stated. "His inclusion on the DPO list only appeared after his arrest."

Yogi concluded by urging the police to release Pekei immediately, claiming his innocence in all accusations and his role in maintaining peace in the region. He questions the police's motives, suggesting they are fabricating charges to disrupt the current peaceful situation.

Joint security forces allege that crimes were committed

According to AKBP Faizal Ramadhani, head of operations of the Cartenz Peace Task Force, the arrest was based on a police report filed on 1 February 2015 (LP/01/K/II/2015/PAPUA/RES PANIAI) and a warrant issued on 11 November 2016 (DPO/36/XI/2016/DITRESKRIMUM).

In a written statement, Faizal explained that Pekei is accused of extortion, threats, violent theft, and illegal possession of a firearm in Wotai village, Yatamo district, Paniai, on 31 Januarywa 2015. The alleged victim is Nicolas Worabay.

AKBP Bayu Suseno, Head of Public Relations for the Cartenz Peace Task Force, further stated that Pekei holds a significant position as the commander of general operations for the TPNPB OPM in the Dokoge Paniai headquarters.

Presently, Pekei is detained at the Nabire Police Station for further investigation into his alleged involvement with the TPNPB-OPM. The information available points to this arrest and detention being arbitrary.

Source: https://humanrightsmonitor.org/news/arrest-of-tpnpb-leader-in-paniai-fuels-tensions-between-joint-security-forces-and-tpnpb