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Indonesia Investigates Murder of Papuan Independence Leader - 2002-03-04

Indonesian investigators have sealed off and searched an army camp Papua province. They are looking for clues in the murder of Papuan independence leader Theys Eluay, who was found dead in his car in November.

Local news media report that investigators have dug up a plot on the military base, which they believe could be hiding the body of a key witness in the murder investigation. But they say they cannot reveal their findings until the investigation is brought to a close, possibly next month. Last November, Papuan independence leader Theys Eluay was found dead in his car, shortly after dining at the army's special forces base in Papua's capital Jayapura. The investigators were searching for the body of his driver possibly a key witness of the murder - on the base. Human rights groups charge that Indonesia's special forces, known as Kopassus, were involved in Mr. Eluay's death and the likely death of his driver, who is missing. "In our findings, the assassination of Theys Eluay is premeditated - and implicated state institutions," said John Rumbiak, with the human rights group, Elsham. Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri has called for investigators to solve the murder case as quickly as possible. Indonesian military officials deny having any part in Mr. Eluay's death, but the police say they cannot rule out military involvement. Mr. Rumbiak said the investigation into Mr. Eluay's death may implicate some low-ranking military personnel in his murder. He said a human rights tribunal would be the only legal means to bring about justice. "Even though the investigation will come out with results, this will be handled by criminal law a military trial, which will be the channel of the process, not a human rights tribunal," he said. Some 3,700 kilometers east of the Indonesian capital Jakarta, Papua has been struggling for independence since the late 1960's. A former Dutch colony, it was annexed by Indonesia in 1969 after a majority of representatives cast their ballots in an independence refugee. But independence supporters say that ballot was fixed. Sporadic fighting between Indonesian troops and independence guerrillas has broken out ever since.