Ananda Teresia and Kate Lamb, Jakarta – An Indonesian court on Thursday acquitted a retired Army officer in the fatal shooting of four teenagers in Papua in 2014, crushing hopes that the military would be held accountable for alleged abuses in the restive region.
Held in an infrequently used human rights court, the seven-week trial saw public prosecutors bring charges of "crimes against humanity" against retired Army major Isak Sattu for his alleged role in ordering the fatal shooting.
Presiding judge Sutisna Sawati said on Thursday that the defendant had been found not guilty, and was cleared of all charges.
The case relates to an incident in the Papuan district of Paniai in 2014 when security forces allegedly opened fire on a crowd of hundreds of residents who had gathered to protest against the beating of a child, killing four and injuring 17.
Yones Douw, a lawyer and representative of the families of the victims, said the trial was only held to "create a good image for Indonesia".
"Since the beginning of the trial, we rejected it because there was only one suspect and we just knew he would be freed," he said.
Prosecutors, who alleged that Isak had failed in his command responsibility by not stopping his troops, had called for him to be jailed for 10 years.
Isak's lawyer, Syahrir Cakkari, said he was cleared of all charges because he was not responsible for the actions of the Indonesian Military (TNI) personnel involved in the incident.
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has paid particular attention to trying to improve development and social welfare in Papua and has promised to ensure justice for the victims of the Paniai incident.