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Indonesian court convicts 7 Papuans for killing Americans JAKARTA - An Indonesian court on Tuesday convicted seven men of leading an armed ambush that killed two American school teachers in remote Papua province four years ago, and sentenced the alleged ringleader to life imprisonment. Chief Judge Andriani Nurdin of the Central Jakarta District Court said defendant Antonius Wamang had 'committed a gross violation of human rights for attacking civilians' and deserved harsher punishment than the 20-year sentence asked by prosecutors, the state-run Antara news agency reported.

Six other defendants were also found guilty of various levels of involvement and sentenced to between 18 months and seven years in prison. All seven defendants had refused to appear in court during teh trial to protest alleged biased treatment, and again walked out before the verdicts were announced late Tuesday afternoon. The seven native Papuans, who are alleged separatist guerrillas in the strife-torn province, were accused of ambushing a convoy in 2002 near the world's largest gold mine, run by the US mining company Freeport.

Two American teachers, Rickey Lynn Spier, 44, of Littleton, Colorado, and Leon Edwin Burgon, 71, of Sun River, Oregon, were killed by gunfire during the ambush. The trial was politically sensitive because it was an obstacle to rapidly improving political and military ties between the US and Indonesia, due to claims that Indonesian army soldiers had actually done the ambush.

The verdicts were the culmination of a bizarre four-year investigation in which the defendants were arrested despite statements by human rights' groups and local police that the Indonesian military had likely orchestrated the attack. Some evidence indicated that Indonesian soldiers carried out the attack, possibly to pressure Freeport not to reduce its monthly security payments to the army.

The Indonesian army was also accused of stalling the investigation, but then agreed to allow the US Federal Bureau of Investigation to probe the killings. Police later arrested 12 Papuans, including Wamang, who was indicted by a US grand jury in 2004. However, Papuan activists have said Wamang, the alleged ringleader, was closely associated with Indonesian army commanders in Tamika, a town near the mine, and was given ammunition by them that may have been used in the ambush.

The US Congress had blocked the resumption of full military relations with Indonesia to force Jakarta to cooperate in the investigation, but now the two sides have resumed full ties as well as weapons' sales.

Papua, which lies more than 3,500 kilometres east of Jakarta, is one of the most remote areas on earth. The province also has the world's largest copper mine as well as massive offshore gas deposits, and has been wracked by sporadic violence between the Indonesian military and a small band of separatist fighters since the 1960s.



Posted in PT Freeport @ 08 November 2006 02:14 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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