On 4 June, Alapia Yalak, the Head of the Yali tribe in Yahukimo, was arrested for reportedly being involved in an act of arson on a police post on Halabok Road in Yahukimo. According to a report received from a local human rights investigator, local villagers had allegedly burned down the police post in reaction to the detention and ill-treatment of Lendeng Omu, a human rights activist, on 21 May 2014. According to this source, Yalak was not involved in this act of arson, and was instead arrested due to his dissenting political beliefs.
According to eyewitnesses who were present at the time of his arrest on 4 June 2014, Yalak and another unnamed young man were arrested at around 22:30 Papua time in Yalak’s home in Yahukimo. Yalak and a group of friends were playing cards when around 20 members of a joint military and police task force forcibly entered his home, while around 30 security personnel surrounded Yalak’s home. The security forces were reported to have arrived in 16 vehicles and had released seven warning shots to intimidate the men. Yalak was dragged outside his home while the rest of the people present were threatened at gunpoint and forced to raise their hands in surrender. One of his friends, a young man who was asleep in the kitchen, had heard the commotion in the front room where the security forces entered, and attempted to escape through the back door. He was caught by police who were guarding the back of the house and subsequently arrested. He was released a few hours later.
According to this young man’s account, Yalak and he suffered cruel and degrading treatment at the hands of the security forces on their way to Yahukimo Regional police station. The two men were severely beaten and intimidated. On reaching the police station, police then reportedly forced the two men to remove all their clothes, whereupon 30 police officers allegedly took turns beating them. They were then made to crawl naked into the holding cell.
The next day, a group of local villagers demonstrated in front of Yahukimo Regional police station, demanding for the immediate release of Yalak and Omu. Yalak was transferred to Papua Police Headquarters (Polisi Daerah Papua, Polda) in Jayapura to undergo further investigation.
Information provided in the report strongly suggests that Yalak was arrested due to his political beliefs and support for Papuan independence. In 2009, as the Head of the Yali tribe in Yahukimo, he was invited to attend a meeting organised by the Indigenous People’s Body (Lembaga Masyarakat Adat, LMA), at which tribal leaders from around Papua discussed the issue of Special Autonomy with government officials. According to an account by Yalak, as elaborated in the report, tribal leaders were allegedly offered bribes by government officials in exchange for convincing their respective tribes to support Special Autonomy. Yalak was allegedly offered a bribe of IDR 50,000,000 or USD 4,200 by Yahukimo Regent Ones Pahabol. Pahabol has faced repeated accusations of corruption, most recently for embezzling state funds meant for university students in 2013. The tribal leaders were reportedly told, “If you say you want independence, you will not receive any money. If you support Special Autonomy, you will receive money.” Yalak reportedly responded that he refused to be cheated and bribed like his ancestors were in the 60s, and that his community wanted independence instead.
Yalak was tried without a lawyer and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment in Wamena Prison. It is unclear what charges he was sentenced under. Yalak escaped prison in February 2015, and returned to his home district of Dekai in Yahukimo the following month. On 5 May 2015, a joint security task force raided his house in Dekai and arrested him. He is believed to currently be detained in Dekai Regional Police Station and is reportedly suffering from malaria. It is unlikely that he is receiving sufficient medical treatment. Local sources reported that he will be transferred to Wamena to be tried. He is currently not receiving any legal accompaniment.