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By Novan Iman Santosa and Yogita Tahilramani

JAKARTA, Indonesia (June 26, 2002 – Jakarta Post/Kabar-Irian)---Not a single eyewitness against nine suspects for the murder of Papuan pro-independence leader Dortheys "Theys" Hiyo Eluay witnessed the murder, defense lawyer Warsito Sanyoto said on Tuesday.

Despite the lawyer's claim, the National Military Police asserted that its team had built a strong case against the nine suspects, all members of the Army Special Forces (Kopassus).

A total of 109 witnesses had been interviewed by the National Military Police. Of those 109, 40 are military officers.

"Of all the witnesses, not a single eyewitness claims to have witnessed the murder," Warsito told The Jakarta Post.

He added that there were witnesses who claimed to have witnessed the kidnapping of Theys, but they could not positively identify the kidnapper or kidnappers.

"One witness saw an unidentified man pushing the driver of Theys towards the car. But, who this man was, the witness cannot say for sure," Warsito said.

Theys' driver, Aristoteles, remains missing and is presumed dead.

Dossiers of the nine suspects were prepared by local police, who were the first to initially handle and investigate this case, before investigations were ultimately taken over by the National Military Police.

A military probe concluded that the murder of Theys, a former Golkar Party member, was not politically motivated.

The nine suspected Kopassus officers involved in the death will be tried through a regular military tribunal next month, since the case was not classified as a human rights violation, but a criminal act."

The nine suspects face a maximum of 15 years in jail.

Three of the suspects are middle ranking officers: Lt. Col. Hartomo, Maj. Doni Hutabarat and Capt. Rionaldo. The other six are non-commissioned officers.

National Military Police chief, Maj. Gen. Sulaiman A.B., seemed confident on Monday that his team had built a strong case against the nine Kopassus officers, saying that they had damning testimony from several witnesses.

There was an eyewitness, Warsito said, who knew one of the suspects, Capt. Rionaldo, personally, and met him on a daily basis, but this eyewitness too, could not identify whether the kidnapper was Rionaldo or not.

"All us lawyers were present when the photographs were being shown to witnesses and, witnesses and suspects were confronted with one another," Warsito said.

"If it was Rionaldo, this witness would have said, it's Rionaldo, since they meet each other on a daily basis and this person knows Rionaldo's face very well. The fact is, the witness said that it was not Rionaldo."

When asked of the possibility that the eyewitness was afraid that his life would be in danger if he admitted that Rionaldo could be one of the alleged kidnappers, Warsito did not comment on this.

He simply said that the team of lawyers were confident that they could break the case of the military prosecution since it was not only "weak, but it did not have the support of eyewitness testimony."

"I am quite confident our team will win the case," Warsito said.




JAKARTA, Indonesia (June 25, 2002 – Reuters/Kabar-Irian)---Indonesia's military on Tuesday ruled out a political motive in the murder of a top separatist leader in the remote province of Papua last year, a finding that has stunned his supporters.

Military police chief Major-General Sulaiman A.B. said nine soldiers from the Kopassus Special Forces were under detention and had been declared suspects in the killing of Theys Eluay, whose body was found in his overturned car in November.

''The military police has not found any information which leads to a political motive...I only see this (killing) as a criminal act,'' Sulaiman told reporters.

The murder of the charismatic Eluay emboldened already strong calls for independence among two million Papuans and dealt a blow to the government's stumbling efforts to deal with separatist demands.

The pro-independence Papua Presidium Council -- an umbrella group of Papuan leaders seeking independence peacefully that was chaired by Eluay -- rejected the military's findings.

''It's hard to imagine that this was only a criminal act,'' council secretary general Thaha Al-Hamid told Reuters by telephone from the provincial capital of Jayapura, 3,700 kilometers (2,300 miles) east of Jakarta.

''He was fighting for an independent state and the authorities wanted to stop it,'' he said.

President Megawati Sukarnoputri in December backed the setting up on an independent commission to investigate the murder.

That commission submitted its findings to Megawati in April but declined to give any information to the public over the possible motive of the murder.

The resource-rich eastern province is one of Indonesia's two separatist hotspots, but staunchly nationalist Megawati has firmly ruled out independence as Jakarta seeks to keep the world's most populous Muslim nation united.

The Kopassus unit earned a notorious reputation for its alleged role in the torture and abduction of dissidents during former autocrat Suharto's 32-year iron-fisted rule, which ended abruptly in 1998.

Kopassus has played a central role in operations to crush separatism not only in the province of Papua but also Aceh on the northern tip of Sumatra island.

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