Subject: Freeport Killings Arrest Denounced By Rights Groups [+RI-US Military Ties]

also: RI hopes for resumed U.S. military ties after Papua rebel charged

excerpt from 'Rights Groups:' Edward McWilliams, a former senior U.S. diplomat in Jakarta, said, "If we go after the Free Papua Movement, we're basically conspiring in a cover-up."

Associated Press Friday, June 25, 2004

Rights groups denounce U.S. indictment of Papua man over American deaths

An Indonesian man charged by U.S. authorities over the murder of two American teachers is not a rebel leader as claimed in Washington and the case against him is an unfair attempt to blame rebels for the crime, human rights activists said Friday.

The rights groups said the man, far from being a member of the Free Papua Movement, has close ties to the Indonesian military, which is fighting the insurgency.

A U.S. grand jury indictment released Thursday charged Anthonius Wamang, 32, with two counts of murder and eight counts of attempted murder in an attack on a convoy of U.S. schoolteachers on Aug. 31, 2002, in Indonesia's remote West Papua province.

Court papers described him as an operational commander of the Free Papua Movement, which seeks a state independent of Indonesia.

But rights activists immediately cast doubt on the indictment, saying that Wamang was a sandalwood vendor with close ties with the Indonesian army which runs the business in Papua.

"If he did it, it's impossible that he was operating on his own," said John Rumbiak, a Papuan human rights activist who is living in exile in Sydney, Australia.

"This is a very naive attempt to scapegoat the Free Papua Organization as the guilty party," said Rumbiak, who fled Papua in 2002 after receiving warnings that Indonesian army death squads were looking for him.

Immediately after the attack on the schoolteachers, on an isolated mountain road guarded by numerous army checkpoints, police blamed special forces troops. But the military brass denied the accusation and assumed control of the investigation.

Since then, FBI agents have visited the ambush site and collected evidence provided by the security forces.

Earlier this year, U.S. officials said they were convinced that the military had played a role in the ambush, which they attributed to a dispute over money paid by U.S.-based Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold Mine Inc., to local army commanders providing security at its Papuan gold and copper mine, the largest in the world.

The victims were all contract employees of Freeport.

Karen Orenstein, the Washington coordinator of the East Timor Action Network, a human rights group, said the attack on the schoolteachers bore the hallmarks of a special forces operation.

"The Indonesian military had a long history of using proxies to do its dirty work," she said.

In 2001, a special forces squad assassinated Theys Eluay, Papua's leading politician. Other units have been involved in attacks on civilians in the province.

A recent report by the U.S. State Department cites numerous extrajudicial killings by security forces in Papua.

Edward McWilliams, a former senior U.S. diplomat in Jakarta, said, "If we go after the Free Papua Movement, we're basically conspiring in a cover-up."

Thursday's announcement coincided with a decision by a U.S. congressional committee to renew a ban on military ties between Washington and Jakarta until U.S. authorities determine that Indonesia's government is cooperating with the FBI's investigation into the ambush.

Ties between the Indonesian and U.S. militaries were severed in 1999 as Indonesia's military and its militia proxies killed hundreds of people in East Timor following its vote for independence.

But after President George W. Bush took over the White House, an effort spearheaded by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz a former ambassador to Jakarta was launched to improve relations with the armed forces. This was justified by the need to build up Indonesia the world's largest Muslim country into a bulwark against al-Qaida infiltration into Southeast Asia.

Indonesia occupied Papua in 1963. The region was annexed after 1,000 tribal leaders were canvassed in a process that has been condemned as a sham. About 100,000 Papuans one-sixth of the population have died in military operations since then.


RI hopes for resumed U.S. military ties after Papua rebel charged

JAKARTA, June 25 (AFP): Indonesia said Friday it hopes for resumed military cooperation with the United States after Washington charged a separatist rebel leader with the killing of two Americans in Papua province almost two years ago.

The decision by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to charge Anthonius Wamang with the killings vindicates the Indonesian military following allegations they were involved in the ambush, said foreign ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa.

"There are some who do not wish to have the truth come in the way of a good story," Natalegawa told AFP.

"All sorts of charges have been levelled against Indonesia, and the TNI (military) in particular, about their alleged involvement in the killings.

"To have now the U.S. attorney general indict a leader of the so-called Free Papua Movement in the killings is obviously a source of great satisfaction and a vindication of a sort."

Natalegawa said he hoped the "perpetrators of this dastardly act can be quickly captured and brought to justice."

U.S. military education training funds for Indonesia have been in suspension, with Congress pressing for a resolution of the killings.

"Since the Timika case was one of the issues that needed to be clarified before any talk of resumption of military cooperation, we hope this latest development would remove a major obstacle," Natalegawa said.

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