The Jakarta Post
A soldier allegedly tortured and shot Papuan pastor Yeremia Zanambani at close range in the latter’s pig pen in Hitadipa district, Intan Jaya regency, which led to his death hours later amid escalating tensions in the area, according to the findings of an independent investigation carried out by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM).
The investigation, launched soon after the incident on Sept. 19, found that a member of the Indonesian Military (TNI), named as Chief Sgt. Alpius Hasim Madi, was allegedly behind the pastor’s death, Komnas HAM Commissioner Choirul Anam said.
Citing the investigation result, he said the wound on the victim’s inner left arm, which was about 5 to 7 centimeters wide and 10 centimeters long, resulted from a gunshot fired at a range of less than 1 meter from the victim.
“Komnas HAM also believes there was another wound, potentially caused by a bladed weapon, on the victim’s left arm, judging by the symmetrical shape of the wound. Experts have said that he might have bled to death,” Choirul said in a live press conference on Monday.
Yeremia also reportedly suffered direct physical violence, evidenced by an intravital injury on the back of his neck and the traces of furnace ash visible on the victim’s right knee, indicating that the victim was forced to kneel prior to being shot, Choirul said.
Komnas HAM suspects the torture was carried out by the perpetrator with the aim of extracting information from the victim, either about a missing weapon taken from a slain soldier or the whereabouts of members of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB).
Following the death of Chief Sgt. Sahlan on Sept. 17, the TNI conducted searches for the soldier’s weapon, which is believed to have been seized by members of the armed group.
On Sept. 19, Choirul said, Hitadipa residents were gathered together twice in the course of the search for the weapon and told by the TNI to return it within three days. In the gatherings, Yeremia was reportedly mentioned along with five other names and was labeled an enemy by Alpius.
At around 1:10 p.m., another soldier First Pvt. Dwi Akbar Utomo was shot dead at the Hitadipa Subdistrict Military Command (Koramil) preparatory post.
Meanwhile, Alpius allegedly led a group of soldiers to conduct searches for the stolen weapon, as reported by local residents, including Yeremia’s wife. Alpius was seen heading to the pig pen before Yeremia was shot, Choirul went on.
At the same time, the Hitadipa health office, which was suspected of being the hiding place and shooting point used by the members of the armed group that killed Dwi, was burned down.
At around 5:50 p.m., Yeremia’s wife found her husband lying face down in his pig pen. Yeremia survived for five to six hours after being found, during which time he was able to recount some details of the incident.
Some 19 strike marks from 14 firing points were found outside and inside the pig pen, including in the roof of the pen and on nearby trees. The shots were allegedly fired toward the pen and its surroundings from a distance of 9 to 10 meters.
“Komnas HAM strongly suspects that the random shots were deliberately not aimed at the target, but to obscure the facts of the actual shooting,” Choirul said.
This allegation was also strengthened by the finding of a bullet shot into a wooden beam at the crime scene, a shot which the TNI claimed had not been fired, he added.
Komnas HAM will report the investigation results to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and the Coordinating Legal, Political and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD.
The commission hopes the government can trace down and bring the party responsible for the extrajudicial killing to court.
The finding was similar to one recently revealed by an independent team called the Intan Jaya Humanity Team, whose probe also suspected TNI soldiers of being behind the killing of Yeremia. The team alleged that the fatal shooting was part of escalating tensions and a series of violent incidents that occurred in Intan Jaya between TNI personnel and local residents.
Meanwhile, the government-sanctioned joint fact-finding team (TGPF) investigation results reported by Mahfud MD on Oct. 21 were indecisive, although the team said there was an indication of TNI involvement.
TNI spokesperson for the Joint Regional Defense Command III in Papua Col. Gusti Nyoman Suriastawa said the TNI would uphold the legal process in the case, including if members were found to be involved in the incident.
“From the beginning, the TNI supported the government in this case, and was active in protecting the TGPF during investigative duties in the field,” Gusti told The Jakarta Post, adding that the TNI respected the findings of both the TGPF and other parties.
A TNI investigation team has also been deployed to the field to follow up on the TGPF’s findings, Gusti said.
The TNI aimed to carry out thorough investigations of all the incidents that occurred in Intan Jaya from Sept. 14 to Sept. 18, which he said had claimed the lives of three civilians and two TNI personnel.
“Don’t just focus on one case and put others aside, because it is a series of events. Putting aside all the facts from this series of incidents will obscure the most basic problem, namely the existence of armed criminal groups, the source of the problem in Papua,” he said.