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Tensions in Irian Jaya on the Rise - 2001-11-12

Independence activists and human rights groups are calling for a full investigation into the death of a prominent independence leader in Indonesia's eastern province of Irian Jaya. Police are bracing for possible violence in the province. Hundreds of mourners marched through Irian Jaya's provincial capital Jayapura as the body of Theys Eluay was brought to the local Parliament building Monday. The funeral procession took place peacefully. But witnesses say the situation is tense, with young men burning tires and setting up roadblocks in some parts of the capital. Local police say they are preparing for the possible outbreak of violence. Violent demonstrations took place on Sunday, with rioters burning down a market after word of Mr. Eluay's death reached his supporters. Mr. Eluay was the Chairman of the Papuan Presidium Council, an umbrella organization grouping a number of pro-independence groups. His body was found on Sunday , showing what witnesses say were signs of torture. Mr. Eluay had been kidnapped while on his way home from a dinner with senior Indonesian military officials a fact that other independence activists says points to possible military involvement in the murder. Willy Mandowen is a senior member of the Papua Presidium Council. "I can't blame anybody at this time, but everyone including the wife of Mr. Theys feels it's funny that after the invitation for dinner by this military personnel, the Kopassus Hamadi, one hour later, he was kidnapped and killed," he said. Military officials deny any involvement in the killing. But different officials are giving different accounts of what may have happened. Some say there is evidence to suggest Mr. Eluay was strangled. But others say it is possible he died as a result of a heart condition. Known as Papua or West Papua to independence supporters, Irian Jaya has been the home of decades of low-intensity fighting between Indonesian troops and separatist guerrillas. Indonesia formally annexed the province with the approval of the United Nations in 1969, but independence supporters say the move was illegal. Last month the Indonesian government passed a special autonomy law for West Papua, allowing it greater control over its own finances and natural resources. But the Papua Presidium rejected the law as not enough to meet their demands. The organization Human Rights Watch released a statement calling Mr. Eluay's death a "well planned assassination." The group is demanding that the Indonesian government conduct a high-level investigation into the killing.