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Accused Papuan activists boycott murder trial

Melbourne Age - August 31, 2006

Mark Forbes, Indonesia – Papuan activists charged over the murder of four Indonesian police and one intelligence officer boycotted their trial yesterday after being assaulted by police as they were being returned to prison.

The activists had alleged maltreatment and retracted their police statements concerning the March 16 killings, which took place during a demonstration against the giant Freeport Mine outside a university in Jayapura. The officers were killed with rocks and spears.

After court on Monday, police stopped a prison van carrying the seven defendants and severely beat independence activist Nelson Rumbiak. He was struck with rattan sticks, kicked and allegedly sustained a broken rib. Two other men were also allegedly assaulted.

Along with two other defendants, Rumbiak had told the court he made statements implicating others in the killings under pressure from police, including beatings. Defendant Ferdinand Pakage claimed he was shot in the leg by a senior policeman while being interrogated. All three recanted their police statements.

Rumbiak's lawyer, David Sitorus, said his client was taken to hospital by prison authorities on Monday night but returned to jail as his security could not be guaranteed. The defendants were refusing to appear at the hearing until their safety was assured and the police issued a formal apology, he said.

Jayapura jail chief Johan Yarangga confirmed there was an "incident" when the prisoners returned on Monday that led to a quarrel with police. He denied the trio were seriously injured.