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Indonesia: Prominent Independence Leader Found Dead - 2001-11-11

A prominent independence leader in Indonesia's remote eastern province of Irian Jaya has been killed. The body of Theys Eluay was found Sunday, a day after he was abducted.

Authorities confirm that the body of independence leader Theys Eluay was found in his car Sunday, outside Irian Jaya's provincial capital Jayapura. Independence activists say Mr. Eluay had been kidnapped the night before by a group of unidentified men. They also say Mr. Eluay's body shows signs of torture.

Mr. Eluay was the chairman of the Papua Presidium Council - an umbrella organization of groups demanding independence for Irian Jaya - which independence supporters call Papua.

Mr. Eluay was among four independence activists on trial by authorities for subversion, after, the Papua Presidium Council held a massive rally last year - resulting in renewed calls for independence. Independence supporters also violated the law by raising the separatist flag across the province last December 1, their national day.

The 64-year-old Mr. Eluay was a highly-respected political and tribal leader. Analysts say his murder could lead to unrest across the province.

Irian Jaya is the resource-rich province that makes up the western half of the island of Papua New Guinea, some 3,700 kilometers east of the Indonesian capital Jakarta. Independence activists say the province's resources have been exploited by Jakarta - with little of the revenue being returned to the Irian Jayan people.

Last month, Indonesia's parliament passed new legislation allowing Irian Jaya a higher degree of autonomy - including a larger percentage of the revenue generated by the mining industry. But independence supporters say that is not enough - and they want full independence.

Indonesia formally annexed Irian Jaya in 1969 - in a special ballot that was recognized by the United Nations. But independence supporters say the ballot was not fair - because only select groups of people were allowed to participate.

Fighting has simmered ever since between Indonesian troops and guerrilla separatists from the "Free Papua Movement."