Papuan defendants say statements elicited under pressure

Kompas – July 20, 2006
Scene at Jayapura District Court during trial of Abepura riot defendants (Liputan 6)
Scene at Jayapura District Court during trial of Abepura riot defendants (Liputan 6)

Jayapura – During the reading of defense speeches at the Jayapura District Court on Wednesday July 19, four of the defendants charged over the Abepura riots that resulted in the death of four police officers and an Indonesian airforce officer have retracted the statements made in their interrogation reports. They retracted the statements on the grounds that the information was provided under pressure from police investigators.

On the same day, the panel of judges presided over by Morris SH also postponed the hearing of the verdicts against the four other defendants. The four defendants, who are facing the same charges, are Markus Kayame, Patrisius Aronggear, Thomas Ukago and Fenius Waker. The defendants that retracted their statements were Othen Dapyal, Elkana Lokobal, Musa Asso and Moses Lokobal.

Monjefri Pawika also declared that he was retracting his statement in a defense speech read out by his lawyer from the Papua Land of Peace advocacy team.

Another defendant in the Abepura case who is being tried separately, Elyas Tamaka, also said in his defense speech that he was retracting his statement on the grounds that the information was elicited under pressure.

In another separate hearing, the defense attorney for Aris Mandowen in presenting his demurrer to the court also retracted his interrogation report on the same grounds.

In his dense speech, the secretary general of the West Papua Peoples United Struggle Front (Pepera) Selfius Bobii questioned the procedures used in breaking up the demonstration at the Cenderawasih University on March 16. He also refuted the testimonies of a number of witnesses that stated he had given a speech in which he ordered the protesters to attack police.

Bobii also questioned why police did not break up the smaller mass action earlier in the day when protesters blockaded the highway between Jayapura and the Sentani Airport. Bobii said he believes that police allowed them to continue demonstrating and provoked the demonstrators into committing violence against police.

“There was a game by security forces in the blockading of the road that ended in the clash. On the night of March 15, there were a number of intelligence agents who joined the protesters. On that night there were only 50 people. If the blockading of the road was indeed against the law, why didn’t police break up the demonstration on that night”, said Bobii.

In a separate defense speech, Bobii’s defense attorney questioned an expert language witness (who is also a police officer) who stated that a press release issued by Bobii incited the demonstrators to blockade the road. Bobii’s defense lawyer said that the blockade had been in place since March 15 while Bobii only distributed the press release at 1pm.

“The capacity of the expert language witness who concluded that the press release incited the protesters is also unclear. Moreover the expert witness failed to appear in court”, said Bobii’s defense attorney Anum Siregar in reading the defense speech.

Following the hearing, Morris declared that when witnesses provide information under oath to investigators, the information can be used even though they are not present in court. “On this question (the rebuttal against the competence of the expert witness) it may well be that the defense attorney considers this the case. We can also make a consideration, including in relation to the information from the witnesses and our own convictions”, he said. (row)

[Translated by James Balowski.]