The Papuan human rights defender and international spokesperson of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), Mr Victor Yeimo (see photo on top, source KNPB), was released from the correctional facility in Abepura, Jayapura City, on 23 September 2023 after serving a sentence of one year. Mr Yeimo was arrested and processed for making orations demanding a referendum during a mass protest against racism towards indigenous Papuans in Jayapura on 19 August 2019. Thousands of Papuans gathered at Ekspo Waena, Jayapura City, to attend a gratitude worship with Mr Yeimo. The worship was also attended by KNPB activists, his team of lawyers, human rights defenders from Jayapura, and church leaders (see photos below, source: KNPB).
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.
On 5 May 2023, the Jayapura District Court (PN) judges stated that Victor Yeimo was not found guilty of treason. Instead, he was found guilty of violating Article 155 paragraph (1) of the Criminal Code. The article regulates 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. He was sentenced to eight months. Article 155 has been declared by the Constitutional Court to no longer have binding legal force. Human rights activists say that Victor Yeimo should have been acquitted because the trial did not prove that Mr Yeimo violated the articles listed in the indictment.
On 12 May 2023, the Public Prosecutor filed an appeal against the decision. In its appeal decision, the Jayapura Panel of Judges overturned the district court’s decision. The overruling verdict stated that Victor Yeimo was legally and conclusively proven guilty of committing treason.
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. KNPB activists have been criminalised and subjected to intimidation, arbitrary arrest, torture, and even extrajudicial killings for many years.