Jakarta – The Army Military Police have named eight soldiers suspects for allegedly burning down an official residence of the Intan Jaya Health Agency in Hitadipa village, Intan Jaya, Papua, amid a series of alleged violence preceding the fatal shooting of Pastor Yeremia Zanambani.
The decision to name the soldiers suspects was taken after a joint investigation team from the Cendrawasih Military Command in Papua and the Indonesian Military (TNI) questioned 11 soldiers and one civilian related to the blaze that took place on Sept. 19.
"Based on information from witnesses and current evidence, investigators have named eight people suspects," Army Military Police (Puspomad) commander Let. Gen. Dodik Widjanarko said on Thursday as reported by Kompas.com.
The eight suspects are identified only as Capt. SA, Second Lt. KT, Second Sgt. MFA, First Sgt. S, Second Sgt. ISF, Second Cpl. DP, First Pvt. MI and Second Pvt. MH.
Dodik said the investigation team would send the case dossier to Jayapura III-19 Oditur (military prosecutors) after it was completed. The suspects will be charged under articles 187 and 55 of the Criminal Code on arson and assisting crimes.
Dodik said the incident had inflicted losses of Rp 1.5 billion (US$105,802) and Army chief of staff (KSAD) Gen. Andika Prakasa had ordered the force to rebuild the house to cover the losses.
Based on the findings of an independent investigation team led by prominent human rights activist and Lokataru Legal and Human Rights Foundation executive director Haris Azhar, the residence owned by the Health Agency was allegedly set ablaze on Sept 19, which was also the day of Pastor Yeremia's shooting.
Hours prior to both incidents, military personnel gathered hundreds of Hitadipa villagers in front of a school building that had been converted into a military post, demanding residents return the weapon of a slain soldier that was lost during a gunfire exchange between the TNI and the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) two days prior.
"During the meeting, villagers claimed that the district military commander gave them two days to return the gun or else the TNI would carry out an annihilation operation in the village," Haris said on Oct. 30.
Later that day, soldiers allegedly burned down the residence and Pastor Yeremia was found fatally wounded in his pig pen.
Haris' team and another investigative team formed by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) had alleged that TNI personnel were behind the death of Yeremia.
Reports from the government-sanctioned joint fact-finding team (TGPF) also indicated the alleged involvement of security forces in Yeremia's shooting, however, it left open the possibility of a third party's involvement in the crime.
On Yeremia shooting, Dodik said the TNI-Cendrawasih Kodam joint team was still investigating the case and had not yet found sufficient evidence to charge anyone.
"We've questioned witnesses, investigated the crime scene, but we also need to conduct an autopsy on the victim's body. We don't want to charge the wrong person, we want to charge those who are guilty of the crime," he said.
Yeremia's family members had not given permission for authorities to exhume his body and conduct an autopsy due to cultural beliefs. Yeremia's daughter, Rode Zanambani said on Tuesday that statements from witnesses and experts, as well as existing evidence, would be sufficient to reveal the perpetrators behind her father's death without having to conduct an autopsy.