31 Jul 2002

Indonesian army officer says Papua independence leader may have died during questioning

10:36 am on 31 July 2002

The lawyer for an Indonesian army officer suspected of involvement in the murder of the Papuan independence leader, Theys Eluay, says Mr Eluay died suddenly while being questioned by soldiers.

The lawyer Ruhut Sitompul, says Lieutenant Colonel Hartomo said that Mr Eluay may have died of shock, while his subordinates were questioning him in his car.

Colonel Hartomo commanded the army task force based in Jayapura when Theys was found dead in his car on November 11th last year.

The independence leader had been abducted the previous evening.

The lawyer told the French news agency AFP, that Colonel Hartomo was not in the car and had not ordered Mr Eluay be questioned.

He says it was the initiative of several of his subordinates.

Colonel Hartomo has been detained as a suspect and is believed to be one of three officers who will stand trial in a military court for their alleged involvement in the murder.

Six lower-ranking soldiers will also face trial.

The nine, who have not been officially identified, face a maximum 15 years in jail if convicted.