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By Don Greenlees

JAKARTA, Indonesia (August 31, 2002 – The Weekend Australian)---A year ago, Hartomo was an important man in Papua. A lieutenant colonel commanding the notorious Indonesian army's Special Forces unit in the troubled eastern province, he played a vital role in controlling dissent from Jakarta's rule.

On the front line of defending the nation from the evils of separatism, Hartomo could look forward to promotion. It won't be so easy now.

The commander of the Kopassus detachment in Papua and 11 subordinates face a military court hearing over the assassination of Papua's paramount independence leader, Papuan Presidium Chairman Theys Hiyo Eluay.

Investigations by the police, the military and a national commission appointed by President Megawati Sukarnoputri have concluded Hartomo and officers and troops under his command kidnapped and executed Eluay on November 10 last year.

In a country where the military is usually regarded as above the law, the plan to try the Kopassus 12 is unusual.

Accused of murdering a civilian, the suspects will face a military court martial in Surabaya, heard by three military judges. The case has been categorized as a common crime rather than a human rights crime, ruling out the possibility of the trial being heard in a human rights court.

John Rumbiak of the Institute for Human Rights Study and Advocacy in the Papuan capital, Jayapura, says the succession of official investigations has been a whitewash. "They have failed to reveal the real masterminds," he says. "The low-ranking Kopassus officers and soldiers have become a state scapegoat."

The Eluay case has become a crucial test of Jakarta's rule in Papua, where the independence movement has strong roots, even though the reality of independence remains a distant dream.

Jakarta has attempted to quiet independence sentiment through the offer of local autonomous rule, under which the provincial government gets more administrative freedom and a better share of revenue.

Papuan politicians and activists maintain that the people are in no mood to give Jakarta a hearing as long as human rights crimes remain unresolved.

Says the secretary general of the pro-independence Papuan Presidium, Thaha Al Hamid: "There is no sincerity on the central government's part to fully investigate this case. The people of Papua don't trust Jakarta anymore. Megawati lost the momentum to improve the image of the central government among the Papuan people."

The murder of Eluay stunned the Papuan independence movement. On November 10 last year, Indonesian Heroes day, the 64-year-old Eluay had attended a commemorative dinner at the Kopassus barracks in the Jayapura area of Hamadi.

Joining the dinner at the insistence of the commander, Hartomo, Eluay and his driver Aristoteles Masoka stayed for a little more than 90 minutes. Afterwards, they were shown to their car by Hartomo and started on the hour-long drive back to Eluay's home in the town of Sentani. Twenty minutes later, on a winding, hillside road, Eluay's car was intercepted.

Numerous witnesses observed a struggle for control of the vehicle and Masoka's subsequent dramatic escape. Eluay was sped away by his captors while Masoka pleaded with passing motorists to be taken back to the Kopassus barracks, believing that was where he could seek help.

Witnesses briefly spotted Masoka inside the barracks, but he was never seen again. Eluay's body was found inside his car down the side of a steep ravine the next day.

Hartomo denied any knowledge of what happened to Eluay, and was backed by the Kopassus commander in Jakarta and other senior officers. However, documents from official investigations, obtained by The Weekend Australian, reveal what should be an ironclad case against Hartomo's Kopassus unit. One summary of the evidence, handed to Megawati by the armed forces, draws on the testimony of 100 witnesses.

It says at least two civilians saw Masoka go into Hartomo's office and come out again shortly before he disappeared. The police and military also identified "heavy phone traffic" between Hartomo and his deputy, Major Doni Hutabarat, at the precise time of Eluay's kidnapping, according to the report given to the President.

Witnesses allege seeing Hutabarat and Kopassus captain Rionardo give orders at the scene of the kidnapping and physically assist in taking control of Eluay's car. No one, other than their own soldiers, can corroborate their alibi that they were at a dance party on the night.

Laboratory tests later matched paint samples from Eluay's car with marks on a Kopassus vehicle with which it collided.

The report concludes the three officers should face charges and "be held in military police headquarters once they arrive in Jakarta until the case is brought to a military tribunal." A further 19 are to face questioning and possible charges.

As Hartomo's situation has looked more dire, his story has changed.

According to Hartomo's lawyer, Ruhut Sitompul, Eluay died while being questioned over separatist activities. Hartomo argues the questioning was done by his subordinates and had nothing to do with him.

"Theys had heart problems. He had a heart attack and died when he was put under pressure," says Sitompul.

But in an autopsy report, University of North Sumatra professor Amar Singh says cuts were found on Eluay's upper and lower lips and inside his mouth and on his neck, "caused by pressure around the neck."

"In our views this is an action [consistent with] stopping the breathing process of a man," Singh wrote.

The conviction of Eluay's killers will be small consolation for Papuans if the investigation goes no further. "We believe this is a gross human rights crime involving state institutions," says Rumbiak. "What we need now is to link the assassination on the ground with those who gave the orders."

Eluay was no saint. He was close to some notorious thugs and enjoyed their hospitality at hotels in Jakarta.

During the years when he was an ardent supporter of Indonesian rule, he informed on resistance members -- information that Free Papua Movement guerilla leaders and independence leaders say resulted in deaths.

Eluay also received kickbacks from logging companies in Papua, some of which were part owned by the military. Al Hamid says the car Eluay died in was a gift from a timber company.

But to the Papuans he became a hero, if not always in life, then certainly in death. They won't be satisfied unless the Kopassus unit responsible faces just penalties and the faceless men who they say are the real masterminds are uncovered.

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

KABAR-IRIAN ("Irian News") Websites:  and 

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