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Papuans want Theys trial moved to Jayapura

Jakarta Post - January 7, 2003

Jakarta – Papuans demanded on Monday that the venue of the murder trial for local separatist leader Theys Hiyo Eluay be moved from the East Java capital of Surabaya to their province in order for justice to take place.

"The case of Theys Eluay's murder that was perpetrated in Jayapura should be tried in Papua, so that the local people can directly monitor the trial," spokesman for former Papuan political prisoners Saul J. Bomay told the Antara news agency.

He argued that it would only be natural under the legal procedures to hold the trial in Jayapura, the capital of Papua, where the crime was committed on November 11, 2001.

Military court martial hearings in Surabaya opened for the Theys' case last Friday with seven members of the Army's Special Force (Kopassus), including Papua Kopassus commander Lt. Col. Hartomo, Capt. Rionardo, Chief Sgt. Asrial and Chief Pvt. Achmad Zulfahmi, being charged with the murder.

Three other Kopassus defendants – Maj. Donny Hutabarat, First Lt. Agus Suprianto, First Sgt. Lorensius – also face the same charges. Bomay said the court martial has failed to provide a sense of justice for most Papuans since it was being held outside Jayapura.

Under the Criminal Code Procedures (Kuhap), a crime must be tried in the town where it takes place, unless a security danger there forces authorities to move it to another town.

Security in Jayapura has never been mentioned as a reason, by the military, for its decision to try the Theys murder case in Surabaya.

Bomay further said what Papuans wanted to know who the mastermind was in the murder of Theys, a popular leader of the separatist Papua Presidium Council (PDP) until he was murdered.

The legal authorities must be able to transparently divulge the motives behind the kidnapping and murder of the Papuan separatist leader, he added.

He called for severe punishment for those found guilty of killing Theys and urged President Megawati Soekarnoputri's government to quickly resolve the case.

Theys was last seen on November 10, 2001, when he attended the commemoration of National Heroes' Day at the Kopassus headquarters in Jayapura. He was then kidnapped and found dead one day later.

According to the investigation documents, which the court heard during Friday's session, presented by military prosecutor Maj. Haryanto, Theys attended a dinner party held by Kopassus commander Hartomo on November 10, 2001, as part of the commemoration of the National Heroes' Day.

The seven defendants are facing up to 15 years in jail if found guilty. Their court martial will resume on Friday.

Kopassus' involvement in the killing of Theys comes at a time when its image has already sunken to a very low point.

Rights activists have blamed the special unit for a series of human rights abuses in conflict areas like Aceh and Maluku, and possibly the Freeport mine ambush in Papua.

Kopassus was also behind a series of kidnappings of activists opposing former Soeharto dictator during the reform movement that led to his ouster in 1998.