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JAKARTA, Indonesia (April 29, 2002 – The Australian)---Indonesia's military police have begun questioning three officers of an elite army unit charged with last year's murder of Papuan independence leader Theys Hiyo Eluay, a lawyer said.

"The questioning has already begun at the headquarters of the military police and Ruhut Sitompul and friends are accompanying the three in their questioning," lawyer Hotma Sitompul said.

Both Hotma and Ruhut Sitompul are members of the team of defense lawyers for the three soldiers from the Kopassus command.

Hotma, speaking by telephone from Bangkok, would not name the three suspects, saying only that they were all officers.

Later today an independent national commission probing Eluay's death is scheduled to hand over its report to President Megawati Sukarnopturi, an agenda from her secretariat showed.

Military police, who have said the three would be accused of insubordination because there had never been any order from their superiors to kill Eluay, would not comment today.

The suspects, detained in Jakarta since April 10, face a maximum sentence of 15 years in jail.

Eluay was found murdered on November 11. He had been abducted the previous evening by an unidentified group as he drove home from a celebration hosted by the Tribuana Kopassus unit in Jayapura.

A low-level armed struggle for independence began after the Dutch ceded control of the resource-rich territory to Indonesia in 1963. Eluay had led the Papua Presidium, an organization fighting through peaceful ways and dialogue, for a free Papua.

Anger at the central government has been fuelled by unpunished extra-judicial killings and Jakarta's perceived exploitation of rich natural resources.

The province, formerly known as Irian Jaya, was renamed Papua this year under an autonomy law and was promised a much greater share of revenue from natural resources.

For additional reports from The Australian, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Australian.

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