MILITARY SENDS OWN TEAM TO PROBE PAPUA PRO-INDEPENDENCE LEADER THEYS' MURDER

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By Tiarma Siboro

JAKARTA, Indonesia (February 1, 2002 – Jakarta Post/Kabar-Irian)---The investigation into the killing of Papuan pro-independence leader Theys Hiyo Eluay is likely to end in the same way as other similar murder cases have ended in the past: Low-level military personnel will be brought to court, but the trial process will fail to reveal those behind the killings.

On Thursday, Indonesian Military (TNI) Headquarters decided to send an investigative team of Military Police personnel to inquire into Theys' murder, arguing that an investigation by the Military Police would be legally binding and could lead to military personnel being charged as suspects in the killing.

The decision was announced just one day after the government floated the idea of issuing a decree establishing an independent commission, whose members would include military and police personnel, as well as government officials.

According to Army Chief of Staff Gen. Endriartono Sutarto, the team, which has still to decide when it will depart for Papua, will follow up on the results of the preliminary investigation carried out by an Army investigative team, which had concluded that "there are strong indications that elements of the military were involved in the murder."

"The Army's investigative team has no authority to declare anyone a suspect as they were only there to gather data, documents, and other information connected with the murder. Thus far, they (the Army team) have conclude that military elements were involved in the incident, but we cannot declare them as suspects pending further investigation by the Military Police team," Endriartono said.

Theys, the chairman of the pro-independence Papua Presidium Council (PDP), was found dead in his car in Koya Tengah Village, near the provincial capital Jayapura, a day after he and his driver, Aristoteles Masoka, were kidnapped by unidentified gunmen.

Many believe that Theys was killed by members of the Army's Special Forces (Kopassus), as he reportedly had attended a Heroes' Day celebration with a Kopassus unit stationed in Hamadi subdistrict, Jayapura, on the night of his death.

The Irian Jaya Police have also revealed that Kopassus soldiers were involved in the murder, but they were unable to carry out further investigations into the case as military personnel do not come under police jurisdiction.

By law, military personnel allegedly involved in a criminal case are investigated by the Military Police. Many, however, have criticized the system because they see it as providing the military with impunity. In the past, many similar Military Police investigations ended up in foot soldiers and low-ranking officers being made scapegoats, while their superiors got off scot-free.

Commenting on the establishment of investigative teams by the government, the Army, and the TNI, PDP Secretary-General Thaha Al Hamid said that any conclusion reached by the teams would not impress the Papuan people, as "there is too much politicking behind the moves."

Thaha further questioned why the government and military institutions were busy setting up investigative teams, all of which were already "perceived as not being independent."

"The Police were on the right track with their investigation into Pak Theys' murder. By law, the police are vested with the ultimate authority to investigate murder cases. If the government is serious about handling Theys' case, why does it not give more power to them (the police) instead of establishing these partial and biased teams?" Thaha told reporters on the sidelines of a seminar on Papua here.

He also expressed pessimism that the teams could bring the masterminds behind the murder to justice.

KABAR-IRIAN ("Irian News") Websites: http://www.irja.org/index2.shtml and http://www.kabar-irian.com 

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