22 Jul 2009

Questions over Papua police probe of Freeport killings

7:19 pm on 22 July 2009

Fourteen local Papuans have been arrested over the series of deadly ambushes near the Freeport mine last weekend.

At least several of them are believed to be members of the Amungme tribe whose lands were expropriated by the Indonesian government to make way for the Freeport operations.

However speculation continues that groups linked to the military have been behind the attacks, the first of which are believed to have involved military-issue weaponry.

But while the military has pointed the finger at separatist rebels fighting for independence from Jakarta, police have so far said there is no indication that is the case.

The arrests happened on Tuesday, a day before the latest round of shootings on Freeport employees in their vehicles which local media say left another two people dead.

Meanwhile, Papua Police Chief Inspector Bagus Ekodanto has told local media that despite intensive questioning, those arrested have yet to admit to being part of any particular group.

The Australia-based Papua human rights activist Nick Chesterfield says "intensive questioning" is a euphemism for inhumane treatment and torture and says he's concerned about the arbitrary nature of the arrests.

"There's questions on are the governments involved again padding their own personnel on the ground at the moment, and if torture is part of getting the answers police want, not what is the truth. but the question of course is, if they have arrested the people who are allegedly behind the Freeport shootings, how come the shootings are still happening?"

Nick Chesterfield