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Prosecutors seek jail terms for Papua murder

Reuters - March 5, 2003

Surabaya – Indonesian prosecutors demanded on Wednesday a two- and-a-half-year jail term for the highest-ranking special forces soldier on trial for the murder of a top Papua independence leader in 2001.

Seven members of the army's elite Kopassus force are on trial over the killing of Theys Eluay, an advocate of separation from Indonesia through peaceful means.

The case is seen as a test of Jakarta's ability to tackle rebellion in the remote province, formerly known as Irian Jaya.

Papua is one of Indonesia's two separatist hot spots. The other is Aceh province in the nation's far west.

Papua was incorporated into Indonesia in 1963. In 1969, a UN- run poll held among local leaders including Theys resulted in a vote to join Indonesia.

Prosecutors also demanded a similar prison term for another mid- ranking officer and terms ranging from two to three years for five lower-ranking soldiers. Military prosecutors said they could not prove the primary murder charge against Lieutenant-Colonel Hartomo but said the highest-ranking defendant ordered Major Doni Hutabarat and five of his troops to hurt Theys.

"The subsidiary demand for [Hartomo] is a jail sentence of two years, six months. He ordered others to conduct violence," prosecutor Colonel Hariyanto told a military court in Surabaya, Indonesia's second largest city. Kopassus has insisted it did not order the killing.

Hariyanto had previously told the court that a Kopassus officer, identified as Hartomo, had told two of the accused to accompany Theys home in his car after the Papuan leader had had dinner with the local Kopassus chief.

Prosecutors sought a three-year jail term for private Ahmad Zulfahmi, one of the men in Theys's car, who they said suffocated him following a row over Jakarta's promise to offer more autonomy to the resource-rich province. Theys was found dead in his overturned car beside a remote road.

"The demand for [Zulfahmi] is three years in jail and dismissal from the army. [He and two other defendants] have been proven guilty of torture causing the victim to lose his life," Hariyanto told the court. He sought two-year jail terms for the other two defendants, one a low-ranking and the other a middle-ranking officer.

Defence lawyers argued that Zulfahmi did not suffocate Theys but only tried to silence him as he was screaming during the quarrel.

"It was a misunderstanding. [Zulfahmi] put his hands on the victim's mouth after the screaming. When the defendants left the victim he was only in a fatigued condition," said Hotma Sitompoel, one of several civilian lawyers helping the defence.

Unpremeditated murder charges carry a maximum jail term of 15 years in Indonesia while the maximum penalty for torture causing death is seven years.