By Tiarma Siboro

JAKARTA, Indonesia (April 27, 2002 - The Jakarta Post/Kabar-Irian)---A high-ranking military officer said on Friday that three officers of the Army's Special Force (Kopassus) had been accused of violating Article 338 of the Criminal Code for killing Papuan leader Theys Hiyo Eluay last year.

Deputy chief of the National Military Police Brig. Gen. Hendardji also underlined that the three were guilty of insubordination, considering that "there had never been any order from their superiors to kill Theys."

He further said that Aristoteles Masoka -- Theys' driver and the only known key witness -- was presumed dead.

"The ongoing investigation into the three Kopassus officers has at least revealed that they killed Theys without any order from their superiors. They are guilty of violating Article 338 on homicide.

"Nevertheless, during the investigation we also concluded that there will be more military officers declared suspects in the murder," Hendardji told reporters on the sidelines of a ceremony for the transfer of the chairmanship of the National Resilience Institute (Lemhannas) Alumni Association from Hendropriyono, who is also the chief of the National Intelligence Agency (BIN), to Minister of Transportation Agum Gumelar.

Article 338 carries a maximum punishment of 15 years imprisonment.

Hendardji added that the other suspects were among the 35 military witnesses of the Papuan-based Trikora Military Command.

According to Hendardji, the military and the police investigation team examining the case have also questioned about 65 local civilian witnesses.

Theys, chairman of the Papuan Presidium Council (PDP), was found dead hours after being abducted while heading home from the Kopassus headquarters in Jayapura, the capital city of Irian Jaya province, after attending a National Heroes’ Day commemoration on Nov. 10 last year.

Aristoteles, who was driving Theys at the time of the abduction, is still missing and presumed dead. The Indonesian Military (TNI) investigation team had held an excavation at the Kopassus' Tribuana IX task force compound on Jl. Hamadi, Jayapura, as an effort to determine whether his corpse was buried there.

The excavation was held following testimonies by several witnesses, who refused to be identified, who asserted they saw a man they believed to be Aristoteles arriving at the Kopassus compound after the murder took place.

The three Kopassus officers -- identified only as Lt. Col. HM, Maj. DH, and Capt. R -- have been detained at the Military Police's cell in Gambir, Central Jakarta, since April 10, days after their arrival at Kopassus headquarters in Cijantung, East Jakarta.

Kopassus chief Maj. Gen. Amirul Isnaeni decided this week to hire Lawyer Hotma Sitompul to represent his subordinates.

Hotma once revealed that he would ask for the suspension of detention of the three soldiers.

Nevertheless, Hendardji stressed that the Military Police would not fulfill Hotma's demand, saying, "We will release them after we complete the investigation within the next two months before submitting it to the military tribunal."

Military Police will question the three officers again on Monday.

Meanwhile, Hendropriyono denied allegations that he was involved in the killing, saying, "How could I order these Kopassus officers who are not under my chain of command (to kill Theys) when even my subordinates could refuse my orders?"

Asked whether his son-in-law, Maj. Andika, also a Kopassus officer and believed to be one of the Papuan-based Military District commanders, was also involved as speculated, Hendropriyono said, "He is just a young boy who has nothing to do with this case. He has never been stationed in Papua either."

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