Alexander Gobai was arrested without arrest warrant on 6 September 2019 by Papua Regional Police at his student dormitory over the 29th August protest. He is the head of the student association at Universitas Sains dan Teknologi Jayapura. He led the students from his university on the 19th of August protest. He later went to Surabaya in East Java and back to Jayapura on the morning of 29 August, whereby he went straight to the protest and chosen as the leader of the protest. On both protests, Morning Star flags were flying and protestors were demanding an independence referendum. Certain elements of the protest on 29 August 2019 turned violent. The authorities see Mr Gobai as a key intellectual actor behind the protests.
On 4 October 2019, Alexander Gobai and six other prisoners were transferred from Papua Regional Police Detention Center, Jayapura, Papua Province to East Kalimantan Province for “security reasons”. This transfer was in breach of Indonesian criminal procedure law; it was conducted, inter alia, without informing their lawyers and families, and without the requisite approval from the Supreme Court. Further to these breaches, the transfer has resulted in a significant increase in legal aid costs (due to the airfares needed to attend each trial), and has cut the prisoners off from their families and culture.
He was detained in Balikpapan Prison Class IIB, Balikpapan, East Kalimantan Province until his release in July 2020.