Sunday, April 08, 2007

New report sheds light on 2002 Papua shooting

International Herald Tribune

By Peter Gelling

JAKARTA: A report to be released Monday suggests that a second group of shooters, possibly associated with the Indonesian military, were involved in the 2002 killings of two Americans and one Indonesian in the Papua Province.

Antonius Wamang, a Papuan who belongs to a decades-old, low-level separatist movement, confessed to the shooting, saying he thought he was shooting at soldiers. He was sentenced to life in prison last November.

But, according to court records, Wamang had access to only three weapons, indicating there other shooters at the scene.

The shootings took place on a road near the Freeport-McMoran gold and copper mine. Freeport-McMoran, a U.S.-owned company, had long paid Indonesian security forces to protect its mine in the troubled province.

But in August 2002, at the time of the killings, Freeport was under pressure to suspend those payments. In the past, Indonesian soldiers had orchestrated attacks to extract benefits from the company. Many human rights workers have suggested that this spurred the killings.

Eben Kirksey, an American anthropologist who has been investigating the shooting for nearly two years, and an Indonesian journalist, Andreas Harsono, are the authors of the new study, which was paid for by the Joyo Indonesian News Service, a New York-based nonprofit media group.

The authors of the report gathered information from a ballistics analysis conducted by the Papuan police days after the gunmen opened fire on a caravan carrying English teachers traveling through checkpoints along the road to the Freeport-McMoran gold and copper mine.

That analysis found that 13 different guns were used and that more than 200 shots were fired from several different angles.

The ballistics report was presented and debated during Wamang's trial, which was open to the public, and distributed by human rights organizations and others. Yet it received little attention and was not reported in the media.

"We are the first to publicly identify a smoking gun," Kirksey said. "In fact, we have unearthed evidence of 10 smoking guns. This means that there was another group of shooters, wielding enormous firepower."

Dino Patti Djalal, a spokesman for the president, disputed the suggestion of military involvement in the shootings. "If there is new evidence they should submit it to us and we will pursue it in a court of law," he said. "If they don't, it is just another attempt at political propaganda. The media should be very suspicious of this kind of report."

Four Indonesian soldiers who testified at the trial said they had returned gunfire after arriving at the scene, which prosecutors said at the time accounted for the discrepancies in the ballistics report.

Patsy Spier, an American who was wounded in the attack and whose husband, Ricky Lynn Spier, was killed, has long lobbied for a resolution to the shooting. Spier said she distributed numerous copies of the ballistics report, including to the FBI.

No comments: