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Soldiers implicated in Irian leader's death

A boy holds a banner reading
A boy holds a banner reading "Indonesian government and military are responsible for the death of our leader" in front of the U.N. in Jakarta, after Eluay's death.  

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Irian Jaya's police chief has said that rogue Indonesian troops may have been behind the murder of a pro-independence leader last November.

"There are indications based on witness testimonies (that soldiers were involved)," Papua police chief Made Mangku Pastika told the Associated Press news agency.

The announcement came as the probe into the charismatic Papuan leader Theys Eluay stalled, following a pledge from police that the investigation would continue but with less intensity.

The investigation included elements from the armed forces and police, in the wake of earlier pleas from religious leaders for an independent inquiry.

Since November 10, leaders have been concerned about the reaction from Papuans should the probe appear to be a whitewash, after urging Jakarta to quickly solve the murder.

The probe was launched after speculation that the military had been involved in Eluay's death near the provincial capital, Jayapura, while he was on his way home from dinner with senior officers from the army's special forces group, Kopassus.

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Pastika told AP that although 60 people including seven Kopassus soldiers had been questioned, "we cannot name the suspects until we have enough evidence."

"Yet our investigations into Theys' case are no longer significant as we have reached a point where they cannot be developed any further," Pastika was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

The questioning itself has only added to the distrust felt by native Papuans towards the central Jakarta government and the military.

With the case now stalled, Pastika told the state news agency police would wait for an independent team to be formed from church and other officials to probe the killing.

With support from Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri for the team, it is hoped that a fresh probe could shed light on the stalled murder case.

The military has denied any role in Eluay's murder, although it has said that rogue soldiers acting outside the chain of command may have done it.

One of the key witnesses, Eluay's driver at the time of the abduction, Aristoteles Masoka, is still missing, he has not been seen since the night of the independence leader's death.

Eluay's body was found on November 10 inside his car at the bottom of a ravine near the Irian Jaya provincial capital, Jayapura.

Irian Jaya police said that preliminary evidence indicated that the 64-year old head of the pro-independence Papua Presidium was murdered.

No one has claimed responsibility for his death although his family and other independence leaders have accused military special-forces units of having plotted his death.

In the past the U.S.-trained units has been accused of operating death squads in Irian Jaya, and elsewhere in Indonesia.

The military is the only institution that is not under the jurisdiction of the (civilian) Criminal Code.

Indonesia's far eastern province is also known as West Papua, has been the scene of an armed rebellion against Indonesian rule for several decades leaving thousands dead.

Many deaths of pro-independence figures have been blamed on Indonesian special-forces which have been accused of widespread human rights abuses in the province.




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