Wed, 31 Mar 1999

Death in custody sparks mass riot

JAYAPURA, Irian Jaya: Police fired warning shots when some 130 people attacked seven shops here in a fray sparked by the death of a teacher at Abepura police station on Sunday.

Police station chief, First Lt. Leonard Sihite, told Antara it took the police half an hour to calm the mob. They dispersed after Sihite told them police would investigate the death of Obet Bade, a teacher from Fajar Timur Institute.

Sihite said that Obet, 41, from Sentani subdistrict, was drunk and was taken to the station on Friday by a military soldier and a local health office employee.

"Obet spent the night and the following day at the police station to rest because the hospital denied him (admittance)," Sihite said. Obet died at dawn on Sunday.

Disappointed with the police explanation, Obet's fellow Sentani residents went on a rampage.

A community leader, Gobai, said on Monday the people were distrustful of police.

"Up to now the police have never disclosed what really happened to another person, also found dead at the station last year," Gobai said.