7 Feb 2003

Indonesian military admits killing Papuan independence leader

11:44 am on 7 February 2003

An Indonesian army officer has told a court martial that one of his men strangled the Papuan independence leader Theys Eluay.

This is the first public admission that the military was behind the killing more than a year ago.

Lt Colonel Hartomo told the tribunal in Surabaya that one of his subordinates, Private Ahmad Zulfahmi, choked Chief Eluay but when he was left he was still alive.

Chief Eluay was found dead on the outskirts of Jayapura in November 2001, after attending a dinner hosted by the Indonesian army's special forces unit.

Lt Col Hartomo is quoted as saying that he instructed his men to guide Chief Eluay and persuade him to drop his intention to proclaim an independent Papua the follwoing month.

Military prosecutors have charged seven officers and soldiers in connection with the killing.

One of the seven, Lt Col Hartomo, insists he had nothing to do with the killing and only learned about it a day later.

The whereabouts of Chief Eluay's driver, who raised the alarm over the assault on his cellphone, is still not known.