by S. Eben Kirksey and Andreas Harsono
American Reporter Correspondents
April 10, 2007
MURDER AT MILE 63: WHO KILLED THE AMERICAN TEACHERS?
Editor's Note: U.S. intelligence reports linked the Indonesian military to the 2002 murder of American schoolteachers in Timika, a mining town in the remote Indonesian province of Papua. Despite these reports, and opposition from the U.S. Congress, the Bush Administration removed a decade-old ban on funding for military education programs in Indonesia. In May 2006, the Bush Administration announced a new Pentagon program that will provide up to $19 million in additional funds for building Indonesian military capacity. Meanwhile, an Indonesian court charged that Antonius Wamang, an alleged Papuan guerrilla, was the ringleader of this attack and sentenced him to life in prison on Nov. 7, 2006. Six other alleged coconspirators were given sentences ranging from 18 months to seven years in jail. The same day that the sentences were handed down, Pentagon officials announced a "new era of military co-operation" with Indonesia. Yet, rigorous standards of evidence didn't prevail in this Indonesian court and questions remain about whether Wamang's group acted alone. This report by prize-winning American Reporter Indonesia Correspondent Andreas Harsono and University of California Indonesia scholar S. Eben Kirkesby, is based on internal police documents, court records, and eyewitness accounts. Antonius Wamang, Decky Murib, Patsy Spier and more than 50 other sources were interviewed in Timika, Jayapura, Biak, Jakarta and Washington D.C.
Part 1: A TRIP TO THE BIG CITY
JAKARTA, Indonesia, April 10, 2007 -- When Antonius Wamang boarded a Garuda jet in September 2001 at Timika's Moses Kilangin airport in Papua, his heart was pounding - he was on a mission to get weapons and ammunition in Indonesia's capital of Jakarta.
Born in the remote highland village of Beoga in 1972, Wamang was a young boy when Indonesian Brig. Gen. Imam Munandar launched Operation Eliminate (Operasi Kikis) in the highlands of Papua. Anti-personnel Daisy cluster bombs, mortars and machine-guns were used against Papuan villagers who were armed with bows and arrows. Nearly 30 years later, Wamang found what he thought was an opportunity to buy arms and to fight back against the Indonesian military.
Wamang told us he flew to Jakarta alone and was met at Cengkareng airport by Agus Anggaibak, a sandalwood dealer with ties to the Indonesian military. According to Janes Natkime, who knows both Wamang and Anggaibak and currently heads the Warsi Foundation in Timika, "Agus Anggaibak set up everything. He lobbied the officers and arranged the money." Anggaibak had earlier visited Wamang's group in their jungle hideout, encouraging them to raise money to buy guns. He brought a rifle with him. Anggaibak showed off this weapon in Wamang's camp. Identifiers were etched into the gun: "MODEL P88-9, Col 9 mmp AK, Made in Germany."
Anggaibak promised to help Wamang obtain weapons like the one he was carrying, as well as other guns, from arms dealers in Jakarta. Like all groups in West Papua's Tentara Pembebasan Nasional (National Liberation Army) - a group without a clear hierarchical command structure founded in 1971 - Wamang's group was poorly armed.
Antonius Wamang's group, according to evidence presented in the Indonesian court that charged him with this murder and several witnesses, only had three aging weapons: an SS1, an M-16, and a bolt-action Mauser. Following several weeks of intensive gold panning, and sandalwood collecting, Wamang's group raised money to purchase more guns.
Anggaibak departed for Jakarta, with an advance payment from Wamang, where he began working on securing a deal. Wamang later flew to meet Anggaibak. He brought sacks of sandalwood probably worth more than 500 million rupiah ($50,000 USD). On the international market sandalwood fetches even higher prices. This rare wood is used to make incense and perfume.
Initially, Anggaibak and Wamang stayed in a police guest house in Jakarta. A sandalwood middleman from Makassar named Mochtar introduced Anggaibak and Wamang to some Indonesian army and police officers. Well aware of how to exploit internal conflicts within the Indonesian security forces, Wamang hoped to secure weapons from one faction in hopes of attacking another faction.
Sgt. Puji, a police officer, befriended Wamang while he was staying at the guest house. Sgt. Puji took Wamang and Anggaibak on trips around Jakarta. They toured around while Puji asked them about the Papuan guerillas' activities around Timika. Puji said that he wanted to help the movement: he presented Wamang with a gift of six magazines of bullets (total 180 bullets) that could be used in Wamang's M-16 or SS1 rifles. Puji also gave Wamang bullets for his Mauser. One night in the guest house, Puji showed Wamang 15 of the M-16 rifles. Wamang said he paid 250 million rupiah, or about $25,000, for these guns, and Puji held on to them for safekeeping.
Later. Wamang moved to Hotel Djody at Jalan Jaksa 35, a backpacker hostel in downtown Jakarta. He probably checked in using a false name. "Mochtar was a regular guest here," said Herry Blaponte, the hotel's front office staff. Blaponte told us Mochtar had regularly made sandalwood business deals with his Papuan guests. Hotel staff remembered Mochtar as having a stocky build and being a "dandy".
Their memories of him are not fond, however, since he left without paying his bill. Blaponte and hotel security staff Mahmud Trikasno later told Indonesian chief detective Dzainal Syarief that they did not remember Wamang's stay at their hotel. "I don't remember his face," said Trikasno. Four cleaning service staff also did not recognize Wamang when presented with his picture, about five years after he says he stayed at the hotel.
One afternoon at Hotel Djody, according to Wamang, a stranger approached him and Anggaibak. "I hear you are looking to buy guns," Wamang quoted the stranger as saying. Eventually Anggaibak admitted that they were. The stranger - Capt. Hardi Heidi - said that he was an Indonesian soldier from Surabaya. Later, Wamang paid for four additional guns from Hardi Heidi: two AK-47s and two M-16s. As with Sgt. Puji, Wamang arranged for Hardi Heidi to keep the weapons for safekeeping until he was ready to depart for Timika.
Hardi Heidi introduced Anggaibak and Wamang to Sugiono, an active duty Kopassus officer who pledged to help transport the weapons to Timika. Sugiono and Hardi Heidi had interests similar to Sgt. Puji's - they wanted to hear about the activities of Papuan guerillas around Timika.
On Sept. 21, Wamang visited 40 Papuan delegates, who had just returned from negotiations with Freeport-McMoran, the New Orleans-based company that operates a mine near Timika said to have the largest gold deposits in the world. They were making a stop in Jakarta and stayed at Hotel Mega Matra. Excited to see many fellow Amungme leaders, Wamang visited the hotel a number of times. The leaders were negotiating a profit-sharing deal with Freeport-McMoran's management.
Wamang asked many delegates for money. According to delegate Eltinus Omaleng, Wamang bragged about how he had secured a shipload of weapons that were ready to be shipped to Papua. Wamang needed the extra money to transport the weapons. Janes Natkime gave Wamang 1.5 million rupiah, or about $160. "Five days later he came back to the hotel, saying that the ship had been rerouted to Aceh," Omaleng told us.
Wamang said that he had paid Sugiono nearly 50 million rupiah, or about $5,400, to ship the guns to Timika. After a chartered boat was loaded with the weapons, Wamang claims that Sugiono and Hardi Heidi gave him the slip. The ship motored away with Wamang standing alone on the dock. Just prior to the boat's departure, Wamang said that he overheard a conversation between Hardi Heidi and his wife. Wamang quoted the wife as saying: "We should sell these in Aceh."
After calling associates back in Timika for more money, Wamang traveled alone back to Timika on the Kelimutu, a passenger ship. Wamang arrived in Timika with only the bullets that Sgt. Puji had given him. His extensive contacts with Sgt. Puji, with Sugiono, with Hardi Heidi, and with Mochtar had given him moments of hope. But his mission to obtain guns had ultimately failed. Instead, Wamang revealed his plans to launch an assault to these Indonesian officers and gave them intelligence about the activities of fellow Papuan guerillas.
Part 2: THE AMBUSH
In early August 2002, Wamang started out on foot with at least six other men, including Johny Kacamol, Yulianus Deikme and Elias Kwalik, from a jungle camp near Kali Kopi. Their destination was the main road that connects Tembagapura, the mining town largely owned by Freeport-McMoran, to Timika, a sprawling urban center in the lowlands.
According to Wamang, the journey took nearly three weeks. Wamang, and his men, were preparing to launch an armed assault on Indonesian military troops traveling on this road. The group set up a temporary camp in a ravine below Mile 63 of the road.
One of Wamang's co-conspirators, Hardi Tsugumol, was also very busy getting ready for "an action" on the road, according to Deminikus Bebari of the Amungme Indigenous Council. In the weeks leading up to the ambush, Tsugumol "amassed food and other supplies," wrote Bebari, in a 2002 report prepared for Indonesian police investigators.
When Hardi Tsugumol was a boy, growing up in a highland village, he wanted to be a soldier. As an adult, Tsugumol cultivated relationships with Indonesian soldiers stationed in Timika. In the lead up to the ambush Tsugumol "contacted his friends in the military to buy ammunition - 300 bullets for 600,000 rupiah, via his friends who were in the Indonesian special forces," wrote Bebari.
On Saturday, Aug. 31, 20002, just before dawn, three men, including Tsugumol, were "picked up at the Kwamki Lama neighborhood by a white Toyota Land Cruiser from Freeport-McMoran's Emergency Planning Operation [EPO] division," wrote Bebari. The EPO is a Freeport-McMoran division that provides logistical, transportation and communication supports for the more than 3,000 Indonesian security personnel stationed in the area.
Tsugumol declined to reveal the identity of the vehicle's driver, saying that he has to protect his "friend." He only admitted that they had traveled along the Timika-Tembagapura road, passing five checkpoints, that morning. The 79-mile road has 14 military posts manned by various units such as Kostrad army reserves, the Marines, the Air Force's Paskhas elite unit, the Army Battalion 752, the Army's Cavalry, Brimob (Mobil Brigade) police troops as well as the infamous Kopassus special operations forces.
Decky Murib, a Papuan man who works as a military informant, said that ten soldiers picked him up at Hotel Serayu in Timika at 8 a.m. that same day. Murib often accompanied Indonesian officers in their operations. He said that he was surprised to see Kopassus Capt. Margus Arifin leading this group. "He was supposed to be in Bandung," said Murib.
Formerly, Margus had been the Kopassus liaison officer at Freeport-McMoran's EPO office. Murib later told police investigators that Margus brought him in a car with license plate number 609 through the Freeport-McMoran checkpoints and dropped him off with four solders at Mile 62 of the Tembagapura road.
Margus reportedly continued north along the road with the remaining soldiers. Margus Arifin denied Murib's testimony, saying that he was in Bandung that day. Kopassus commander Major General Sriyanto Muntrasan told Tempo that Margus's signatures showed he was in a Bandung military course.
Freeport-McMoran operates its check points to register every car and person traveling along the road. Workers have to show their employee ID cards at the checkpoints. Locals have to show special permits issued by Freeport-McMoran's Community Liaison Office. Freeport-McMoran also issues special visitor cards.
"Only the soldiers refuse to report at the checkpoints," said Lexy Lintuuran, Freeport-McMoran's corporate security chief. According to Linturan, a car with the license plate 609, the car Decky Murib claimed he was in, passed through the checkpoints in the morning of the attack.
That morning a group of schoolteachers from the Tembagapura International School went on a picnic around Mile 62 of the road. The rugged terrain around this high-elevation section of the road is covered by old-growth cloud forest. Patsy Spier, who went on the picnic with 10 others, said that it was rainy and foggy. "We ended up leaving the picnic early," said Spier.
The teachers traveled in two white Toyota Land Cruisers. Rick Spier, her husband, drove the first SUV with four colleagues riding as passengers. Ted Burgon, the school's principal, sat next to Rick Spier.
The first shots, fired by a sniper at Rick Spier's SUV as it traveled down the road, were deadly. They came from straight in front of the vehicle. The windshield of Rick Spier and Ted Burgon's car exploded. Within moments they had both sustained fatal wounds.
Wamang claims to not know who fired these first shots. In the initial burst of gunfire it was hard to tell who was shooting. "With everyone shooting, you can't hear well... . If I had shot first, then I would have been able to tell," recalled Wamang. Wamang's group - a rag-tag band of teenagers and men with limited weapons training - began shooting at the cars from the side. They wore black shorts, black t-shirts, and black plastic headbands. They were all barefoot.
Patsy Spier traveled in the second car driven by Ken Balk. She sat next to Bambang Riwanto, her Javanese colleague. Suddenly, in the fog, Patsy Spier saw her husband's car stopped by the side of the road. Another car was speeding towards her on the opposite side of the road. "They ran Rick's car off of the road," Spier thought. Turning around in her seat to get a good look at its license plate, Spier felt a sharp stab in her side. She had been shot. The windshield shattered. Blood splattered all over the SUV's interior.
"I did not see the shooters," said Patsy Spier. Ken Balk, in the same car as Spier, saw a pair of black army boots underneath a truck, some 20 yards away from where their vehicle had come to a stop. Three other vehicles, a yellow Mac truck and two Canadian Pacific dump trucks, were also riddled with bullets.
"All of us were shot, wounded. Bambang was laying on top of me, bleeding. I was worried about my husband but the shooting just continued," said Spier. Bambang died in the attack. Among the 11 people who were wounded in the attack, there were three Indonesian drivers. The two drivers who were seriously injured, Loudwyk Worotikan and Johannes Bawan, were employees of a Freeport-McMoran contract company. Mastur, the third driver, sustained light injuries.
Another pickup truck was also shot but its driver, Daud Tandirerung, managed to speed away from the crime scene. Two colleagues, Yohan Jikwa and Kamame Moom, were riding with Tandirerung. They told investigators that they saw "two men in ski masks." According to witnesses, and a reconstruction by police investigators, the shooting lasted between 30 to 45 minutes.
"We weren't there very long. We immediately retreated," Wamang told us. We asked him, "Were you there 30 minutes?" "No," he said, "30 minutes is way too long." They did not approach the stopped cars. As Wamang's group left the scene, the other unknown gunmen continued shooting. No one followed as they beat a hasty retreat on foot.
Andrew Neale, an expatriate working for Freeport-McMoran, came upon the scene from the north. Neale slammed his vehicle into reverse and drove back to the Kostrad military post, about 500 meters away at Mile 64. According to Lexy Lintuuran, Freeport-McMoran's security chief, the Kostrad company stationed there "has more than 100 soldiers." Why didn't the Kostrad soldiers come sooner? Did they hear the 30-45 minutes of gunfire?
When the soldiers finally arrived at the scene, the attackers melted away. The soldiers briefly fired their guns. Then the shooting abruptly stopped. "I assumed that the shooters left after the TNI came," said Spier, using the acronym of the Indonesian military. She remembered a soldier, dressed in full camouflage and black boots, who stood over her, glaring down. Victims were immediately transported to a nearby hospital and soon evacuated to bigger hospitals in Australia and Indonesia.
A total of 13 guns were used in this assault on the five cars, according to a leaked ballistics report issued by the Police Central Forensic Laboratory on Dec. 19, 2002: five M-16s, six SS1s, and two Mausers. "We had one M-16, one SS1, and one Mauser," Wamang told us. Wamang's account of his weaponry is consistent with the evidence presented by chief prosecutor Anita Asterida: his group carried a total of three guns. The prosecution did not account for the 10 other guns.
Ch. Syafriani, one of the Lab's ballistics experts, reiterated the data contained in the original ballistics report on Sept. 29, 2006, in the Central Jakarta district court. The lab analyzed 30 bullets of 5.56 caliber, 77 bullet fragments, 94 bullet casings of 5.56 caliber, seven bullet casings of 7.62 caliber. A total of 208 bullets, shells, or fragments were recovered from the crime scene. Of the six magazines given to Wamang by Sgt. Puji, he claims that only 1½ magazines (about 45 bullets of 5.56 caliber) were used by his men that day.
Wamang told us that other gunmen were present. He saw other men shooting into the cars, but he could not clearly identify them. "The testimony of Anton Wamang and others at the crime scene is clear and consistent: there was a second group of shooters," said Paula Makabory, a human rights worker in Timika who repeatedly interviewed Wamang over the course of three years.
Evidence of a second group of shooters was not considered by the Indonesian courtroom that recently found Wamang guilty. An Indonesian police investigation questioned 30 soldiers, 44 civilians, and conducted extensive forensic research. These police investigators found "a strong possibility" that there were Indonesian military shooters.
Why would the Indonesian military stage an attack at the Freeport-McMoran mine? One theory is linked to the fact that Freeport-McMoran paid a total of $5.6 million in 2002 for "support costs for government-provided security." The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 imposed new reporting requirements on U.S. companies in the wake of the Enron corporate accounting scandal. After this measure was passed into law, Freeport-McMoran was forced to disclose their payments to the Indonesian military. Under public scrutiny, the company began reducing official and unofficial payments to Indonesian security forces. The August 2002 attack may have been orchestrated by the Indonesian military in a bid to convince Freeport-McMoran of their continued need for security.
On Sept. 1, one day after the attack, the body of "Mr. X" appeared near the crime scene. Senior Indonesian military officers claimed that their troops had shot one of the Papuan guerrilla attackers. Second Class Corporal Wayan, an Indonesian soldier with Satgas Pam 515 Kostrad, claimed to have shot Mr. X while patrolling a mountain near the crime scene at 11:40 a.m.
At 1:30 p.m., senior military and police officials - including Papua police chief Major General I Made Mangku Pastika - arrived at the side of the road where Corporal Wayan was standing with the body. There were no blood stains on the ground near the body. The body was sent to the Tembagapura hospital at 3:30. Dr. Kunto Rahardjo conducted an autopsy. He concluded that Mr. X had been killed more than six hours before he was examined at the hospital. Mr. X had not eaten for more than 12 hours before his death. He had suffered from a severe intestinal worm infection and had a condition called hydrocele which caused his testicles to swell to 17 cm in diameter.
Cpl. Wayan claims that Mr. X was standing on a small ledge approximately 18 inches in width on the side of a steep cliff when he shot and killed him. A police reconstruction conducted on Sept. 10, 2002, found no blood stains on the ledge, at the base of the cliff, nor along the route where Corporal Wayan and his patrol members reportedly dragged the body. The Timika-Tembagapura road is 78 meters from the base of the cliff. This rugged terrain is covered with dense roots and loose rocks. The police reconstruction deemed Wayan's story implausible. The body reportedly fell 8 meters off the cliff, yet did not have any broken bones. A report by Indonesian forensics experts found that the blood type of Mr. X was "O" and that dirt and leaves from the site where Wayan claimed to have shot the man did not contain any blood of this type.
Part 3: THE COVER-UP
Elsham Papua, a human rights group which was involved in the Timika investigation, issued a preliminary report on Sept. 26, 2002. It presented evidence "suggesting the shooting was carried out by Indonesian military personnel or groups facilitated by the TNI." The BBC, Radio Australia, and many Papuan newspapers covered the report. Two days later, the Indonesian military announced that it was to sue Elsham. A court summons arrived in November, announcing that John Rumbiak and Yohanis Bonai, respectively the supervisor and director of Elsham, were being sued for libelous statements.
Thugs raided Elsham Papua's Jakarta office on Oct. 10, 2002. "During the raid, the men seized documents and computer diskettes containing Elsham reports on the August ambush," wrote the Jakarta Post.
Yohanis Bonai's wife, Elsje, and other members of their extended family, were attacked by unknown gunmen while travelling by car near the border between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea on Dec. 28, 2002. Elsje Bonay was shot in both legs. She survived the attack, but after repeated surgeries she still has difficulty walking. Tempo magazine, Indonesia's equivalent of America's Time Magazine, ran a story with the headline: "Shooting of Papuan Human Rights Activist's Family May Be Related to Timika Incident."
Brigadier General Raziman Tarigan, the second in command of the Papua police, headed an Indonesian police investigation. Tarigan worked closely with Elsham investigators. Tarigan told reporters that the 13 guns used in the attack were the types of weapons issued to soldiers stationed in the area. "Only the military and Freeport-McMoran workers pass through the area," Tarigan was quoted as saying by Koran Tempo.
Separately, I Made Mangku Pastika, Tarigan's immediate superior, told three aides to Coordinating Minister on Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in a meeting in the Timika police station: "Gentlemen, this country belongs to all of us. If you do something for the sake of the country and the nation, well, please tell us first. So we're not all in trouble."
Saul Tahapary, a Freeport-McMoran security consultant, was party to this conversation, recalled that Pastika was upset with attempts by the military to cover up their own actions.
Soon Tarigan and Pastika were transferred off of the investigation to new assignments elsewhere in Indonesia. Pastika was assigned to investigate the Bali bombing that killed more than 200 people.
Following the reports by Tarigan and Pastika, Indonesia's Central Military Police (Puspom TNI) sent a team to conduct a "reconstruction." According to Richard Saferstien's text on criminology, "Criminalistics: An Introduction to Forensic Science," a murder reconstruction involves answering a series of questions: (1) was there more than one person involved? (2) how was the victim killed? (3) were there actions taken to cover up what actually took place? The Indonesian military reconstruction didn't rigorously attempt to answer any of these three questions. In fact, this "reconstruction" itself is further evidence of a cover-up.
Decky Murib, the military informant who claimed to be near the scene of the crime, told us that he was threatened and intimidated by Indonesian soldiers on Dec. 28, 2002, the day of the reconstruction. In the months prior to this day, Murib had worked with police investigators to identify Kopassus soldiers whom he alleged were at the crime scene: Capt. Margus Arifin, First Lieut. Wawan Suwandi, Second Class Sgt. I Wayan Suradnya, and PFC Jufri Uswanas. Murib told us that he had changed his story as a result of threats by Captain Margus on the day of the reconstruction. Capt. Margus told Murib to not participate in the reconstruction. Murib decided to go into hiding.
On Dec. 28, at 11:30 a.m., the Indonesian military reconstruction team traveled by bus to Mile 58. Deminikus Bebari of Lemassa and Albert Bolang of the Legal Aid Institute were accompanying the team as outside observers. Bebari protested, saying that Mile 58 was not the place where Murib claimed to have heard the shots. Murib initially told police investigators that he had heard gunshots from his position in between Mile 61 and 62. At this spot there was a large pole, shipping containers, and a place to sit. The team then traveled approximately 500 meters up the road and positioned themselves under some umbrellas by the roadside. The pole and shipping containers, from Murib's testimony, were nowhere in sight. Over four miles of road and the Hanekam tunnel separated Bebari from the site where Murib said he heard the shots. But the military reconstruction team refused to travel further up the road.
Albert Bolang traveled with a separate team, a Brimob mobile police unit, to the site of the shooting at Mile 63. Once both teams were in place, 20 bullets were shot in an automatic burst. Radio contact was made between the two groups. The reconstruction team and Bebari did not hear the gunshots. Brigadier General Hendarji, who headed the military reconstruction team, confronted Bebari as they stood on the road immediately after the shooting experiment. Bebari recounted Hendarji saying "Since you did not hear any gunshots, then all of Murib's testimony about the Timika shooting were lies."
Deminikus Bebari told us "Decky might be a drunkard and an opportunist but he was at Mile 62. How could we test whether he had heard the shots or not when I was placed four miles away from his position?" In January 2003, Decky Murib was flown to Jakarta by Indonesian military officials. Major General Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin, the Indonesian military spokesman, announced on Jan. 14, 2003: "Decky Murib lied."
The reconstruction took place at the height of President Megawati Sukarnoputri's effort to restore military ties with the United States. Her chief security minister, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, told reporters, "There are some things that do not match between the investigation results of the police and the results of the TNI internal investigation into the case." Yudhoyono called for a "synchronization" of the two investigations at "the political level."
Recovering from her gunshot wounds, and mourning her lost husband, Patsy Spier closely followed the news as police investigators implicated Indonesian military troops in the attack. When the Indonesian military took over the investigation, and promptly exonerated themselves, Spier began her campaign for justice. After making a few tear-choked phone calls to the offices of Washington policy makers, she learned that the American government was poised to fund the controversial International Military Education and Training (IMET) program for Indonesian soldiers. "I just, I just couldn't believe it," Spier told ABC's reporters. "If the Indonesian police had implicated the Indonesian military, why would my government want to give money to that military?"
The Bush Administration made military aid to Indonesia a high priority in the post-September 11 era. Following the Santa Cruz massacre in East Timor, the U.S. Congress had blocked military aid to Indonesia in 1992. All military assistance to Indonesia had been cut by the Clinton Administration in response to the bloodbath during the 1999 independence referendum in East Timor. When Spier first came to Capitol Hill in early 2003, human rights groups - Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the East Timor Action Network - were losing a battle to keep restrictions on Indonesian military financing.
Spier's presentations to lawmakers were well received. She secured meetings with some of the top U.S. government officials: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, FBI director Robert Mueller, key senators and congressmen. Spier also met FBI agents Paul Myers, Brad Dierdorf, and Ron Eowan, men who she came to see as her personal "guardian angels." Initially, FBI agents were only permitted short visits to Timika. All their interviews of witnesses were, at first, conducted in the presence of Indonesian minders. "We were objective," said Dierdorf during the interrogation of a witness on Feb. 24, 2005. "Our gut feeling initially leaned away from Papuans," Dierdorf said.
The Australian, that nation's largest newspaper, published a sensational headline on Oct. 28, 2002: "FBI: Army Lied about Papua Ambush." This story discussed the planting of false evidence and removal of other evidence from the scene of the killing. Despite repeated high-level requests from the U.S. government, including a personal appeal by President Bush, the FBI had continual difficulties in gaining access to witnesses and material evidence.
The reports reminded many of the murder of the Balibo Five, a group of Australian, British and New Zealander journalists who were murdered in then-Portuguese East Timor in October 1975. The murderes were initially blamed on TImorese separatists, but later proved to be the work of regular Indonesian Army soldiers.
Spier saw that restricting funds for the Indonesian military would provide a financial incentive for cooperation. Sen. Russell D. Feingold (D-Wis.) later sponsored an amendment to prohibit "normalization" of the U.S.-Indonesia military relationship. Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) sponsored a parallel amendment that prohibited the release of $600,000 in IMET military training funds. Both amendments passed in October 2003. Only "full cooperation" with the FBI in its investigation into the Timika ambush would prompt Washington to release these funds to the Indonesian military.
These congressional measures stymied Bush Administration efforts to restore full military ties with Indonesia. Edmund McWilliams, formerly a U.S. Embassy political counselor in Jakarta, told us, "The FBI investigation, once it was finally launched, proceeded in the constraining political context of an Administration policy which was pressing for rapid expansion of U.S.-Indonesian military ties. I personally observed FBI reluctance to accept or pursue information offered to it that pointed to Indonesian military involvement in the killings."
Over a two-year period, Elsham's John Rumbiak presented the FBI with specific details about Wamang's ties to the Indonesian military. U.S. Sen. Joe Biden submitted written questions about this case to Dr. Condoleezza Rice during her Jan. 19, 2005, confirmation hearing for the position of U.S. Secretary of State. Dr. Rice responded, "Although the investigation is not complete, the FBI has uncovered no evidence indicating TNI involvement in the Timika murders." Did FBI investigators brief Administration officials about Wamang's trip to Jakarta, and his extensive contacts with military agents? Were U.S. leaders informed about eyewitness reports of a second group of shooters?
Decky Murib was brought as a prosecution witness in the defamation suit against Elsham on March 31, 2004 in Jayapura, the capital of Papua. During the course of the trial, Murib stayed in the personal guest quarters of the Indonesian military commander for Papua. On April 14, 2004, the Elsham legal defense team staged a walk-out because the judges would not give them the opportunity to cross-examine Murib. The Elsham defense team was finally given the opportunity to question Murib on May 5, but Murib refused to answer any questions.
On three separate occasions, Murib made death threats to Bebari, the human rights worker, in front of the court. The Elsham defense team asked that the judges take note of the threats. If bodily harm should come to their witness, the Elsham defense team observed, Murib would be suspected as the perpetrator.
Approximately one month later Bebari's house was ransacked by an angry mob. A group of men wielding axes entered the house and grabbed Bebari's wife, Nirmala Ohee, and their three children. The men destroyed books, clothes, and other personal property. They threatened to kill Nirmala Ohee and the children.
On June 24, 2004, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller announced that Antonius Wamang had been indicted for the murders at Mile 63. The indictment alleged that Wamang was a guerilla fighter seeking independence from Indonesia. The U.S. Department of Justice did not exonerate the Indonesian military, but the Indonesian military subsequently claimed exoneration.
Less than one week after Wamang's indictment, the Jayapura district court found Elsham guilty of libel. The rights group was fined $5,300 on June 30 and ordered to publicly apologize through national print and television media.
Following the indictment, the U.S. Congress dropped provisions that tied military education programs in Indonesia to cooperation in the Timika investigation. Yet, Indonesian authorities failed to capture Wamang. Willy Mandowen, a Papuan politician, began talking with the FBI and U.S. government officials about negotiating Wamang's surrender. He sent an e-mail to a public discussion forum for Papuan activists on Dec. 7, 2005: "Tomorrow at Capitol Hill, Washington D.C., we are meeting with important representatives of the U.S. Congress who are giving full support to help us resolve our problems in West Papua." Congressional staffers talked with Mandowen about the possibility that FBI agents might bring Wamang to stand trial in America.
With Willy Mandowen's help, Paul Myers and Ron Eowan of the FBI coordinated an Jan. 11, 2006, "meeting" at a small hotel in Timika called Amole Dua. Invitations to this meeting were sent to suspects via Reverend Isak Onawame, a local church leader who is known internationally for his work on human rights. The Washington Post reported that the FBI pledged to transport the suspects to the U.S. for trial.
At the hotel, the two FBI agents told the 12 men attending the meeting, including Antonius Wamang and Reverend Onawame, to get into the back of a medium-sized truck. The agents reportedly promised to drive the men to the Timika airport and fly them out of Indonesia. Instead of driving to the airport, Myers and Eowan dropped the men at a local police station where Indonesian troops with the elite Brimob unit were waiting.
Reverend Onawame was strip-searched, deprived of sleep, and interrogated at the police station along with the other detainees. Another detainee, an elderly man named Jairus Kibak, claimed he was also hit by an Indonesian interrogator on his forehead. Four of the men, who were never charged with any crime, were released the next day. Reverend Onawame was not released. Denny Yomaki of Elsham Papua, who met with Reverend Onawame in the prison, said, "Interrogators extracted a false confession from Reverend Onawame. He told the police that he gave Wamang food." Antonius
Wamang has repeatedly said that Reverend Isak Onawame was not involved in the crime. "It's fine if I am held responsible," Wamang said, "but, the Reverend didn't even help us with logistics."
The prisoners were soon transferred to the Indonesian Police Headquarters' detention center in Jakarta. They were not given their own cells to sleep in. Instead they all shared the prison "tv room." Hardi Tsugumol, who was charged with providing Wamang with logistical support, developed serious heart problems in June 2006. His medical treatment was delayed until late August, when he underwent heart surgery. Tsugumol also suffered from hepatitis and HIV/AIDS. One of the prisoners' lawyers, Riando Tambunan, repeatedly asked the court to attend to Tsugumol's health problems. But, visits from doctors were infrequent.
Judicial proceedings in Indonesia differ markedly from the United States, where Wamang thought he would be tried when he surrendered to the FBI. In Indonesia, evidence is not evaluated by a jury but instead by a government-appointed team. In court, the role of "prosecutor" and "judge" are not easily distinguished, and there have reportedly been cases in which such officials were assassinated after they failed to follow the official line. Evidence of military involvement in the murder was not presented to the court by the defense team and the other defendants. The defense team simply did not have funding available for the expensive.airfares to Timika that would have enabled them to conduct proper discovery research.
Antonius Wamang was sentenced to life in prison by a Jakarta court on Nov. 7, 2006. Two other defendants, teenagers Johny Kacamol and Yulianus Deikme, were sentenced to seven years in jail, while the other four, including Reverend Onawame, Hardi Tsugumol and the two church workers, were sentenced to 18 months. Tsugumol died on Dec. 1, 2006.
No charges have been brought against Sgt. Puji, the police officer who Wamang has fingered as supplier of the bullets used in the attack. Evidence of the reported involvement of Kopassus military agents - Capt. Margus Arifin, First Lieut. Wawan Suwandi, Second Class Sgt. I Wayan Suradnya, and PFC Jufri Uswanas - has not been heard by a court of law. Agus Anggaibak, who reportedly inspired Wamang's attack and helped him get bullets, is now a member of the government regional assembly in Timika.
The FBI does not yet consider this murder case closed.
Despite the inconclusive outcome of the FBI investigation, the Bush Administration has launched aggressive new military aid programs for Indonesia. Earlier last year, a new Pentagon program was announced that will provide up to $19 million in additional funds for building Indonesian military capacity.
The same day that Wamang was sentenced to life, Washington signaled a "new era of military co-operation" with Indonesia.
S. Eben Kirksey is completing his doctorate, about the idea of freedom (merdeka) in Papua New Guinea, at the University of California at Santa Cruz.
American Reporter Indonesia Correspondent Andreas Harsono is also a Pantau journalist, and winner of a Nieman International Fellowship for his reporting on Indonesian affairs. He is currently writing a book on Indonesian nationalism.
This report is based on interviews with Antonius Wamang, Decky Murib, Patsy Spier and more than 50 other sources in Timika, Jayapura, and Jakarta, Indonesia, and in Washington, D.C. It was sponsored by the Joyo Indonesia News in New York and Pantau media group in Jakarta.