On 5 July 2023, two months after judges at the Jayapura District Court sentenced Papuan activist and human rights defender Victor Yeimo to eight months imprisonment for other charges but not for treason, a panel of judges of the Jayapura High Court in its appeal decision, stated that Mr Yeimo was proven to have committed treason and sentenced him to one year in prison. The criminal sentence imposed by the Judge Panel is higher than the sentence handed down by the Jayapura District Court on 5 May. At that time, the Jayapura District Court (PN) panel chaired by Mathius SH MH and Member Judges Andi Asmuruf SH and Linn Carol Hamadi SH stated that Victor Yeimo was not found guilty of treason. He was found guilty of violating Article 155 paragraph (1) of the Criminal Code. The article is an article about the act of broadcasting, displaying or pasting writings or paintings in public that contain expressions of feelings of hostility, hatred, or contempt for the Government of Indonesia.
On 12 May 2023, the Public Prosecutor filed an appeal against the decision of the Jayapura District Court with appeal memory number 9/Akta.Pid/2023/PN Jap. On the other hand, on the same day, the Coalition of Law Enforcement and Human Rights for Papua as Yeimo’s legal representants also filed an appeal against the decision of the Jayapura District Court, with appeal memory number 9/Akta.Pid/2023/PN Jap.
In its appeal decision, the Jayapura Panel of Judges overturned the decision Number 376 / Pid.B / 2021 / PN Jap dated 5 May 5 2023 of the district court. The verdict of the panel of judges stated that Victor Yeimo was legally and conclusively proven guilty of committing treason. The appeal ruling reads “… sentenced the defendant Victor Yeimo to imprisonment for one year as in the first indictment of the public prosecutor”
The panel of judges in PT Jayapura declared that Yeimo’s arrest and detention period was deducted entirely from the sentence imposed, and ordered that Yeimo remain in custody.
Human rights observers say the trial against Victor Yeimo is politically motivated in an attempt to criminalise him for his political engagement. Mr Yeimo is also the international KNPB spokesperson, a civil resistance movement organisation demanding a self-determination referendum through peaceful action. For many years, KNPB activists have been criminalised and subjected to intimidation, arbitrary arrest, torture, and even extrajudicial killings.
The trial against Mr Yeimo was initially launched at the Jayapura District Court in August 2021 but had to be interrupted because his health significantly deteriorated during detention. After almost six months of medical treatment at the public hospital, the judges continued the trial. Mr Yeimo’s lawyers accuse the judges of ignoring their client’s right to health. The judges gave the order to detain Victor Yeimo at the Abepura detention facility, despite a medical letter stating that he needed further treatment for recovery at the hospital.
Mr Yeimo has been charged with treason as regulated in Article 106 of the Indonesian Criminal Code (KUHP), criminal conspiracy against the state (Article 110 KUHP), and Incitement (Article 160 KUHP). Treason can carry a sentence of up to 20 years imprisonment. On 5 May 2023, the Jayapura District Court found Victor Yeimo guilty of violating Article 155 paragraph (1) of the Criminal Code, which pertains to the public display of writings or images containing expressions of hostility, hatred, or contempt towards the Indonesian government. Yeimo was then sentenced to 8 months’ imprisonment.
This verdict stirred controversy because the charge of Article 155 paragraph (1) of the Criminal Code was not initially brought against Victor Yeimo. Also, the legal article used to sentence him had already been invalidated by the Constitutional Court.