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The Arrests of 11 January 2006—A Preliminary Account

Last night twelve Papuan suspects in a 2002 murder of Americans were arrested in West Papua--the Indonesian-occupied half of New Guinea. There is evidence of Indonesian military involvement in the 2002 killings, but the Bush administration and Indonesian authorities are attempting to pin the blame on Papuan “terrorists?.
The Arrests of 11 January 2006—A Preliminary Account

S. Eben Kirksey

The following account draws on a number of sources on the ground in West Papua.

There was a meeting last night at “Amole Dua?, a small hotel in the city of Timika. Paul Myers and Ron Eiowan—two FBI agents investigating a 2002 murder of U.S. citizens—helped coordinate this meeting. Invitations to this meeting were sent to eleven men: suspects in the 2002 killings. A local church leader, Reverend Isak Ondawame, delivered the invitations. Ondawame, along with other prominent leaders in Timika, had been in discussion with U.S. officials about negotiating the surrender of the suspects. Diplomats with the State Department recently assured local indigenous leaders that the U.S. government would ensure humane treatment and a fair trial if the suspects handed themselves in.

Timika is in West Papua, a territory that was incorporated into Indonesia in 1969 following a contested referendum. On 31 August 2002, gunmen shot to death two U.S. citizens and one Indonesian citizen while wounding eight other U.S. citizens near Timika. This attack occurred on the heavily guarded main road within the mining project area of U.S.-based Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold, Inc. (NYSE symbol: FCX). Initial Indonesian police reports identified the Indonesian military as the likely culprits in the attack. In June 2004, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft announced the indictment of one man in connection with the crime, an Indonesian citizen named Anthonius Wamang.

Wamang was among the eleven men invited to the meeting last night at Amole Dua. At this meeting Special Agents Myers and Eiowan reiterated promises to bring the twelve men to America. The two FBI agents told the 11 men, and Reverend Ondawame, to get into the back of a medium-sized truck. They said it was the first stage of their journey to America. The agents said that they would be safe from Indonesian authorities inside of the truck. Once inside of the truck, with the back door shut, the men could not see out. As it traveled, they did not know where it was bound.

The truck stopped in front of a local Indonesian police station (PolSek). The police station was in Kuala Kencana, a gated community built by Freeport for their employees. Indonesian troops with the elite Brimob (Mobile Brigade) unit were waiting in front of the police. After seeing that the twelve men were in Indonesian custody, Special Agents Myers and Eiowan departed from the police station.

First the Indonesian police officers strip searched the twelve men. Some of the questioning began while detainees were just wearing their underwear. One of the detainees, a man named Yairus Kiwak, claims that he was hit by an Indonesian interrogator on his forehead. Kiwak also claims that he was kicked in his leg. The questioning began about 10:30 at night, and continued until well after dawn.

This morning (12 January), eight of the twelve men were driven to the airport. They were flown on a commercial airliner (Garuda) to West Papua’s capital of Jayapura. While being transported, the men were bound in plastic handcuffs. Upon arrival in Jayapura they were driven to the regional police headquarters (POLDA Papua). The four other detainees followed on a second aircraft and were also taken to the regional police headquarters.

The Indonesian police have claimed all of the credit for the arrests. General Sutanto, the head of Indonesia’s national police (Kapolri), said in a press statement “last night at 10:30 local time Antonius Wamang, along with twelve others, were captured in Timika?. U.S. government officials have done little to publicly claim credit for the arrests. A U.S. government source reported that the FBI was planning to leave West Papua today. Reportedly, there are no U.S. officials present at the regional police headquarters in Jayapura as the twelve men are undergoing further interrogations.

At this moment the fate of the twelve men remains undecided. The Indonesian authorities have not yet formally charged any of them with a crime. The U.S. government is claiming that pursuing justice in the 2002 murders is a priority. The events in West Papua of the last 24 hours seem to parallel U.S. government practices elsewhere—having another country conduct interrogations frees U.S. officials from being implicated in potential allegations of torture. If the U.S. government is indeed interested in pursuing justice, then it is surprising that officials and agents are following the Indonesian government interrogation process from afar.

The author is completing his doctoral dissertation at UC Santa Cruz on nationalism and violence in West Papua.

S. Eben Kirksey
HISTCON, University of California, 1156 High Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95064
E-mail: skirksey (at) ucsc.edu
 
 


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