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RNZ Pacific

Indonesian police have forcefully dispersed a number of West Papuan protests around the region.

The protesters were yesterday calling for the release of pro-independence activist Victor Yeimo who was taken into police custody more than two weeks ago.

They were also calling for the release of other Papuan political prisoners, and rejecting Jakarta’s plans for special autonomy in Papua.

Reports from the capital of West Papua province, Manokwari, indicate that as many as 130 protesters were arrested.

Dozens of armed police converged on the mobilisations by Papuan students and civil society members to disperse their attempts to hold protests on several occasions around Manokwari.

Reports from Papua region say authorities ensured those being arrested underwent covid-19 rapid anti-gen testing before being processed by police.

Several deaths linked to the coronavirus have been reported in the province over the last few days.

Protests in Sorong, Jayapura
Protests were also held in the cities of Sorong and Jayapura, the latter of which has entered a fourth week of internet outage.

Yeimo, the foreign spokesman for the West Papua National Committee, had been on a police wanted list for treason suspects related to his alleged role in the widespread “Papua Rising” anti-racism protests in August and September 2019.

Those protests in a number of cities and towns in the region followed highly publicised racist attacks on Papuan students in Java.

They were met with a crackdown by Indonesian security forces, and interference by militia groups, and spiralled into unrest which caused dozens of deaths.

Protesters in today’s mobilisations in Manokwari were also demonstrating against the Indonesian government’s recent decision to brand the West Papuan National Liberation Army as terrorists.

Guerilla fighters with the Liberation Army, which is a small and fractured force, have been locked in an ongoing armed conflict with Indonesian military forces in the rugged central highlands of West Papua for months.

The conflict escalated in recent weeks after the Papuan force killed an Indonesian intelligence chief and – according to authorities – two teachers last month.

West Papuan protesters held in custody in Manokwari.
West Papuan protesters held in custody outside a Brimob police station in Manokwari. Image: RNZ Pacific

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