Sat, 25 Jan 2003

Judges say trial into murder of Papuan leader must go on

Ainur Sophiaan, The Jakarta Post, Surabaya

The panel of judges trying seven of the Army Special Forces (Kopassus) personnel charged with killing Papuan proindependence leader Theys Hiyo Eluay rejected on Friday a demand by the defendants' lawyers to drop the case.

Presiding judge Col. E.M. Yamini and members of the panel Col. Amirudin Rahim and Col. Suryono concluded that the charges leveled against the defendants were legally acceptable and therefore the trial would continue.

The defense lawyers, who include Ruhut Sitompul and Tomy Sihotang, had objected to the charges, which they said were unclear and confusing.

In his response, Yamini said the prosecutors had built their case thoroughly and comprehensively so as to convince the judges that the crime took place.

"Regarding the defense lawyers' question about reports that Theys was left in an incapacitated state (after being suffocated) by the defendants on the rear seat but was then found dead on the middle seat would be one of the main subjects of their argument," Yamini said.

The judges will also hear the defense claim of the possibility of another person or persons killing Theys because according to the defense lawyers the Papuan Presidium Council chairman was still breathing when the defendants admitted to leaving him in the car, albeit near death.

According to the charges the defendants had been in Theys' car and had restricted his breathing and physically restrained him. However, the defense is now arguing that someone else must have killed him in the end.

Theys was found dead in his Kijang van one day after he attended a dinner party organized by a local unit of Kopassus in celebration of National Heroes' Day on Nov. 10, 2001, in Jayapura. Theys' driver, Aristoteles remains missing, presumed dead but no charges have been leveled against anyone.

The session to hear the judges' opinion lasted only one hour. The trial was adjourned until next week to hear testimony from witnesses.

Chief prosecutor Col. Haryanto will bring in 17 witnesses who would testify against the defendants. They include three military soldiers and a police officer. Most of the witnesses to be presented by the prosecutors come from Papua.

The soldiers charged in the high-profile murder case are Jayapura's Tribuana Kopassus task force chief Lt. Col. Hartomo, Capt. Leonardo, First Sgt. Asrial, Chief Pvt. Achmad Zulfahmi, Maj. Donny Hutabarat, First Lt. Agus Suprianto and First Sgt. Lorensius.