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JAKARTA, Indonesia (September 17, 2002 – AFP/Kabar-Irian)---Seven Indonesian soldiers will soon face a court martial for suspected involvement in last year's murder of a Papuan independence leader, a report said Tuesday.

The head of the military police, Major General A.B. Sulaiman, told the Kompas that dossiers would be handed to the military prosecutor's office this month to prepare charges linked to the murder of Theys Hiyo Eluay in November.

They face a maximum 15 years in jail if convicted.

He said that one lieutenant colonel was now a key witness and not a suspect, and that all seven soldiers were all from the Jayapura-based Tribuawana command that is mostly made up of members of the army’s elite Kopassus force.

Sulaiman, in August, said that 10 soldiers were on the list of suspects, including at least three officers

Eluay was found dead in his car on November 11 last year. He had been abducted by armed men the previous evening while driving home from a ceremony at the headquarters of the Tribuana military taskforce in Jayapura, the capital of Papua.

One of the officers questioned in the military police probe has been quoted as saying that Eluay had died suddenly, possibly from shock, while being questioned by soldiers.

But an earlier autopsy determined that Eluay, who headed the peaceful pro-independence Papua Presidium Council, had suffocated. His body was found in his crashed car with the face darkened and tongue protruding.

The military has said that some members of the Kopassus serving in the Tribuana command might be involved in the murder.

A low-level armed struggle for independence began after the Dutch ceded control of the resource-rich territory to Indonesia in 1963. Eluay's organization advocated peaceful pressure for separation.

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

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