Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Murder trial of OPM suspects starts in Jakarta

The Central Jakarta District Court opened the trial Tuesday of seven Papuans charged with the 2002 murders of two American teachers and an Indonesian who worked for PT Freeport Indonesia in Timika, Papua. The suspects were forcibly brought to trial by police after twice refusing to appear. The defendants demanded that the trial be held in Timika. "It's useless to hold the trial here. We won't talk," defendant Ishak Onawame, 54, told presiding judge Andriani Nurdin. The judge was questioning Antonius Wamang, who remained silent.

Antonius, 30, who is accused of orchestrating the killings, is being tried separately from the other six defendants: Ishak, Agustinus Anggaibak, 23, Yulianus Deikme, 26, Esau Onawame, 23, Hardi Sugumol, 34, and Yairus Kiwak, 52. The seven Papuans insisted they would stand trial only in Timika, where the alleged crimes took place. "Don't force us!," cried another of the accused, while Papuan supporters attending the session applauded. Antonius, who was seated in front of the judges, returned to the visitors' seats to join the other defendants in protest of the proceedings. "I want this trial closed now!" cried Ishak.

Judge Andriani pleaded with them to agree to stand trial but failed. The situation was exacerbated by the absence of the defendants' lawyers, who are from the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association. They had been asked by the Papuans not to attend. The police finally forced Antonius to return to his seat so that the indictments could be read. "You may file your objection in a written statement in your defense later," Andriani said, adding that the trial must go on.

In the indictment, prosecutors alleged that Antonius was a member of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) and was ordered by OPM leader Kelly Kwalik to sabotage Jalan Tembagapura in Timika and to attack Indonesian Military (TNI) troops that passed along the road near the Freeport mine. "Antonius Wamang recruited 11 people to launch the attack," the indictment said. "In his action, he was backed by preacher Ishak Onawame who gave him two sacks of rice and a tent ..."

The indictment claims that on August 31, Antonius and the rest of the attackers, using M-16, SS-1 and Mauser rifles, ambushed the vehicle carrying five Americans and an Indonesian, which they believed was also carrying TNI soldiers. U.S. nationals Ricky Lynn Spier, 44, and Edwin Leon Burgen, 71, and an Indonesian, FX Bambang Riwanto, died in the attack.

During the session, a Papuan woman kept yelling that the seven defendants were innocent. "They are just farmers. Farmers don't have guns, soldiers do!"

The defendants are charged with premeditated murder and weapons possession, for which they could face the death sentence. Prosecutor Anita Asterida said the Timika District Court and the Papuan provincial prosecutor's office had pleaded with the Supreme Court to move the trial to Jakarta for security reasons. "It is exactly as stipulated in the Criminal Procedures Code," she told The Jakarta Post. The trial was adjourned until 1 August, when the defendants and their lawyers will present their pleas.

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