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Papua Activist Was Armed, Say Police

Papua Activist Was Armed, Say Police

Michael Bachelard

June 20, 2012

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Under the gun: West Papuan university students are held after rioting that followed the killing of leading independence activist Mako Tabuni by police. Photo: AFP

POLICE in West Papua have claimed that the independence activist they killed in the streets last week was carrying the same gun used to shoot a German tourist in May.

But the police spokesman Senior Commissioner Johannes Nugroho, confirmed the weapon was a police-issue Taurus.

''Mako Tabuni did have a gun with him and it belonged to the police. They [independence organisation the Free Papua Movement] stole it but I don't remember when,'' Commissioner Nugroho said.

Mr Tabuni was the deputychairman of the West Papua National Committee, which is agitating for independence from Indonesia, and his death last Thursday prompted rioting and a security crackdown in the already restive province.

In the police version of events, Mr Tabuni was threatening to shoot a police officer who had tried to arrest him. But eyewitnesses have said the independence leader was unarmed and shot as he tried to run away.

Commissioner Nugroho said Mr Tabuni and unnamed others were responsible for the non-fatal shooting of a German tourist, Pieter Dietmar Helmut, at a beach in the capital Jayapura on May 29, as well as a number of other mysterious shootings.

Police were sure the independence activist was the gunman, because the pistol they allegedly found on him would be revealed as the same weapon used to shoot the German, Commissioner Nugroho said. But he added that Mr Helmut's wife could not positively identify Mr Tabuni because he ''is already buried''.

The chairman of Baptist Churches in Papua, Socratez Sofyan Yoman, rejected the police's account, saying that Mr Tabuni had not been armed and that Indonesian security forces were acting as provocateurs.

''They create conflict so that they need [to be given] more money,'' Reverend Yoman said. '''They want more troops in West Papua. They want to [commit] genocide [against] the Papuan [people].''

Reverend Yoman's nephew, a witness to the shooting, said he had been shot ''like an animal'' and that the ''police are like criminals''.

Both major political parties in Australia are reluctant to question Indonesia's actions in West Papua. Greens senator Richard di Natale has called on the government to urge Indonesia to end the violence.

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