Sun, 08 Jun 2003

German woman to return home with slain husband's body

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

After surgery in Jakarta for gunshot wounds inflicted in Aceh, German tourist Elisabeth Margaret Engel is set to return home on Monday with the body of her husband who was shot dead by military soldiers.

Dr. Buddy Utoyo, the director of Gatot Subroto Army Hospital, spoke to reporters on Saturday following surgery on the 49-year- old woman, who sustained a bullet wound to her right knee.

"She plans to depart on Monday," he told reporters.

Dr. Robert Hutauruk who operated on Elisabeth, said that doctors had removed two bullet fragments from her right knee.

"She is in a good condition," he said, adding that she was expected to walk with the aid of crutches on Sunday.

Robert estimated that she had been shot from a distance of more than 100 meters because a bullet fired at a closer range would have destroyed the kneecap.

The body of her husband, Lothar Heinrich Albert Engel, was kept in the hospital's morgue.

The troops shot dead 53-year-old Lothar Engel and injured Elisabeth Engel on a beach in Lhok Gayo village, Teunom district in Aceh Jaya regency on Wednesday night.

The military said that the couple, traveling on tourist visas, were to go to Belawan in North Sumatra by bike. They spent a night camping on the beach in a tourist area, but a local resident suspected they were Free Aceh Movement (GAM) members when he saw a flashlight on the beach.

Soldiers who arrived saw the flashlight and shouted at the couple to identify themselves. They fired three warning shots. When the flashlight went off, they took aim in the direction of the light.

The military administration also produced an affidavit, signed by Elisabeth, written in poor English. In the statement she wrote that she knew that "it was a very dangerous area".

Elisabeth Engel refused to be interviewed on Saturday morning. Several officials in military uniform guarded her room.

The morgue was also guarded by several military officers. There was a large floral wreath expressing condolences from Military chief Gen. Endriartono Sutarto outside the building.

German Ambassador to Indonesia Gerhard Fulda has expressed concern over the shooting, stressing that the two were unarmed civilians.

Defense Attache at the German Embassy here Col. Bruno Hasenpusch visited the site of the shooting on Saturday. He was accompanied by Col. Geerhan Lantara, of the Teuku Umar military headquarters in Aceh.

Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who visited Aceh Besar regency on Saturday, said the government would allow the German authorities to visit the site of the shooting and carry out their own inquiry into the incident.

The police investigation is still ongoing.