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9 policemen, 3 civilians wounded in Irian Jaya riot

Agence France Presse - February 17, 2000 (abridged)

Jakarta – Nine policemen were injured and three residents suffered gunshot wounds when police opened fire during a riot in a town in Indonesia's easternmost province of Irian Jaya, a report said Thursday.

Some 400 residents of Merauke, many armed with primitive weapons, went on the rampage in the town Wednesday, vandalizing the local state radio station and pelting a local police office with stones, the daily Kompas newspaper said.

A total of nine policemen were wounded when several of the protestors stabbed them with sharp weapons in two separate attacks, Kompas said. Troops opened fire to try to disperse the protestors, wounding three residents who were later listed in serious condition, it said.

The riot was triggered by protesters who ran amok after a rally outside the city's parliament building to demand that officials to stop promoting a government autonomy proposal.

Irian Jaya police chief, Brigadier General S.Y. Wenas, was quoted by the newspaper as saying that police had no choice other than to open fire to stop the mob from going berzerk. "Therefore we have to take stern action by firing towards the crowds ... one of them was shot in the stomach ... and then they became more brutal," Wenas said.

Earlier reports received from Merauke Wednesday had said three people were injured in the riot. Police in the area could not be reached by telephone.

[On February 17, the Jakarta Post reported that according to the Institute of Human Rights Studies and Advocacy, an 18 year-old high-school student, Paskalis Betayob, was killed in the clash. One of the institute's executives, Aloysius Renwarin, said he died of gunshot wounds in the back and chest. Please have yet to confirm the death - James Balowski.]

'Suspect went missing to thwart investigation'

Jakarta Post - February 16, 2000

Jakarta – The independent commission on rights abuse in Aceh has suggested that the disappearance of a key suspect in an alleged massacre in the province, was engineered to conceal the identity of the "intellectual perpetrators" of the violence.

"It is too obvious not to believe the disappearance is politically engineered. A particular institution clearly wants to hamper the investigation," said Rosita Noer secretary to the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Violence in Aceh.

Speaking at a media briefing here on Tuesday, Rosita would not elaborate when asked which institution she meant. "We all know who it is," she remarked. "Sudjono is the material witness to the killings and his presence at the trial can be used to find the intellectual engineers behind the violence," Rosita added.

Lt. Col. Sudjono, intelligence chief at the Lhokseumawe-based Lilawangsa Military Command, was officially declared a deserter on January 18 after failing to return to duty after being given permission to go on a two-week leave to his hometown in West Java.

Sudjono is among 20 military and civilians to stand trial for the Bantaqiah killings which occurred in the Beutong area in Aceh in July when soldiers allegedly shot dead religious teacher Tengku Bantaqiah, his wife, students and several farmers. The military claims that they were killed in an exchange of fire and were supporters of rebel groups in the province.

According to officials a joint military civilian court was due to commence this month to try the case. However the trial has now been hampered by Sudjono's disappearance. The case would have set a precedent as it was one of the five central cases of violence brought forward by the commission last year as evidence of rights abuses in Aceh.

The Indonesian Military (TNI) have repeatedly denied suggestions that they were involved in Sudjono's disappearance.

Commission chairman Amran Zamzami said it was too much of a coincidence for Sudjono simply to disappear after his name was implicated in the commission report. "His name has been included in our list [in the report] since September. After we pushed for trials, suddenly the Attorney General says Lt. Col. Sudjono is missing," Amran remarked.

Rosita added that after announcing its report, the commission proposed a witness protection program and close scrutiny of alleged suspects, but the government ignored the proposals. "We have worked hard and the investigation and evidence implicates Sudjono as a suspect so we demand the related institution find him," she said.

Recently, Attorney General Marzuki Darusman said the government will have to decide whether to proceed with the trial without Sudjono. The commission was formed in July 1999 to investigate numerous reports of human rights abuses in the restive province, most of whom were allegedly perpetrated by security forces.

Many observers see the uncovering of these abuses and eventual trial as the first step to healing the wounds from riotous discontent in the province.

The commission also called on Monday for the government to show more concern in expediting the trials of alleged rights abuses in Aceh. "What we hear now is promises from the Attorney General and the military that the trials will begin soon. But till today, we've heard of no developments," Amran said. He said any attempt at reconciliation in Aceh [will fail] if these five cases are not sufficiently prosecuted.

The other four cases in question are: the rape of a woman in Pidie in 1996; the killing of seven people in Idi Cut in February; the fatal shooting of dozens of protesters in North Aceh in May; and the tortures between 1997 and 1998 in Rumah Geudong, Pidie. "It's already mid-February 2000 and we've been promised (a trial) since December 15," Amran said.

The commission revealed that it was in the final stages of an investigation of another five cases in Aceh. However they have decided to suspend further work till the government shows that it is serious in responding to them. "We've almost completed the inquiries, but we halted the work because we feel it's useless. The government doesn't seem to appreciate our work," Rosita said.

However, unlike the previous five, these cases include attacks on both civilians and security forces. They are – the shooting of protesters in front of the South Aceh Police headquarters on Sept. 11, 1999; the shooting of civilians in front of Samadua Police Subprecinct in South Aceh on November 10, 1999; the attack on Mobile Police Brigade personnel at Gunung Geurutee on December 19, 1999 in Sajeun village in Aceh Besar and on December 20, 1999 in Mareuhum Daya village in West Aceh; the killing of military personnel on December 29, 1998, in Lhok Nibong, East Aceh; and the Peudada incident on May 25, 1999 in which a medical military team was killed in an ambush.

"We surely cannot continue with these five cases, if the government is not serious in following up with the ones we've completed," Rosita said.

Apart from the Sujdono case, there have also been questions surrounding the death of legislator Tengku Nashiruddin Daud, found dead earlier this month in Sibolangit, North Sumatra, reportedly after being abducted.

National Police Lt. Gen. Roesdihardjo said here on Tuesday that Julizar, described as a member of the Information Center for Aceh Referendum (SIRA), has been declared as a suspect in the murder.

But in Banda Aceh, the chief of SIRA's presidium, Muhammad Nazar, denied on Tuesday that Julizar was a member. "We will ask for further clarification from the police because their statement is nonsense," Nazar said, while stressing that Julizar is not a SIRA activist.

"He [Julizar] once participated in a SIRA congress in February last year as representative of the United Development Party (PPP)," Nazar recounted of the group's only connection with the suspect. Nazar claimed that police were merely "looking for a scapegoat" in naming the group.

House of Representatives Speaker Akbar Tandjung recently suggested that politics may be behind the Nashiruddin murder as he was a member of a House special commission tasked with the probe of past atrocities in Aceh.