Soldiers dismissed, sent to prison after fatal shooting
Nethy Darma Somba
The Jakarta Post
A military court in Papua on Friday dishonorably discharged two Indonesian Army personnel and sentenced them to three and 12 years in prison for their involvement in a recent fatal shooting incident that claimed the lives of two civilians.
The panel of judges at the Jayapura Military Court said that the two soldiers, First Pvt. Makher Rehatta, 34, and Chief Pvt. Gregorius R. Geta, 33, had been proven to have violated Article 338 of the Criminal Code on murder and Article 351 on aggravated assault.
Apart from dismissal, the panel of judges also sentenced Makher and Gregorius, who were members of the Military District Command (Kodim) 1710/Timika, to 12 and three years' imprisonment, respectively.
'Their reason [for shooting the civilians] to protect their fellow soldiers is a narrow understanding of the military's esprit de corps. [They] should have protected the people, as their weapons were bought with [the people's] money,' presiding judge Ventje Bulo said in the verdict.
Both defendants, along with two other defendants, First Sgt. Ashar and First Private Imanuel Imbiri, who are still undergoing trial, were charged with firing gunshots at local residents who were holding a thanksgiving ceremony in front of the Koprapoka Catholic Church in Mimika regency on Aug. 28.
The incident started when locals became frustrated with Makher and Imanuel for breaking through a road barrier at high speed while riding on motorcycles.
Imanuel, who was on the back of the motorcycle, then descended from the vehicle and brandished a knife at the locals, who later chased both soldiers away. The soldiers then ran to a guard post and grabbed guns then returned to the church.
The other defendants, Ashar and Gregorius, followed along on another motorcycle, bringing with them rifles. Ashar fired his rifle and so did Makher, killing two civilians from the Kamoro tribe, Herman Mairimau and Yulianus Okoare. The shots also injured four others.
The four soldiers were reportedly under the influence of alcohol when they committed the action.
Ventje said both defendants, by their actions, had shown their ignorance of an instruction from the Cenderawasih Military Regional Command (Kodam) chief that banned soldiers from drinking alcohol or taking drugs.
What they did, he added, could trigger security instability in Mimika that could expand to other regions in Papua.
The Jayapura Military Court also preferred to organize the trial in Timika, the capital of Mimika regency, instead of the Papuan provincial capital of Jayapura.
Kamoro community figure Marianus Maknaipeku said that the residents accepted the court's ruling and thanked the military leaders for conducting the military trial in Mimika, allowing locals to directly follow it.
'We ask for one thing, a transparent process until the dismissal so that we are really sure that the perpetrators are no longer military members,' Marianus said.
Gregorius Okoare, a relative of Yulianus, also asked for the same thing, and expressed hope that the people affected by the tragedy would be permitted to witness the dismissal ceremony of the guilty soldiers.
'This is to make sure that the military leaders have indeed implemented the court's ruling. We are afraid they are just sentenced at the court but will later be moved to another unit,' he said.
Soon after the shooting incident, local residents carried the bodies of the victims to the Kodam base and placed them in the middle of the street to show their anger. The bodies were finally moved to the Koprapoka church only after negotiations were held with Papua Police chief Brig. Gen. Paulus Waterpauw mediated by Pastor Amandus Rahaded.
The Army quickly stepped in by covering the burial costs for the two victims and the medical costs of those injured in the incident.
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