West Papua: Evidence of death squads emerge
Evidence of death squads emerge after Youtefa market riot sparked by corrupt police shakedown of gamblers
July 15, 2014
In-depth Investigation from West Papua Media team, our stringers in Jayapura and local sources
after corrupt Police attempt shakedown of gambling
•Weapons seized from police by gangsters, who have mysteriously "disappeared"
•Three dead civilians had nothing to do with gambling: witnesses
•Three dead civilians allegedly targeted by security forces because of Yali tribal membership.
•Another story of savagery from Indonesian security forces
Evidence has emerged of a savage and potentially premeditated hunt of highland students by Indonesian security forces in Abepura on July 2 after the stabbing death of a police officer sparked an allegedly brutal dispersal of civilians by security forces. Three civilians and an Indonesian police officer were killed around the Youtefa market in Abepura after a failed attempt at a shakedown by corrupt police on a gambling ring degenerated into a riot.
Full transparency of the events leading to the riot and behaviour by police in bringing it under control has been hard to verify, however eyewitness testimony gathered by West Papua Media (WPM) stringers have yielded new information that alleges death squads were operating simultaneously to the riot, targeting three students from a single tribal group who were uninvolved with the riot.
Over twenty innocent people were also taken into custody on July 2, after hundreds of uniformed and plainclothes security forces arrested civilians and beat bystanders, Papuan shoppers and particularly civilians from the Highlands, with many sustaining injuries, after unidentified persons in the crowd of gamblers earlier attacked and fatally stabbed the Indonesian police officer, and beat up his partner.
Eyewitness evidence has also confirmed that three young Yali men, Demi Kepno, Sabusek Kabak, and Yenias Wandikbo were beaten and killed well away from the riot and dispersal, by plain clothes police and Kopassus special forces soldiers. This is despite clear evidence that none of the victims were involved in either the gambling, or the subsequent riot.
The violence had its immediate roots in a daily illegal game of dice (Judi Dadu) played in an Indonesian gangster (preman) run gambling den at Pasar Youtefa, by a mixed crowd of over 100 Papuan and Indonesian colonist gamblers. According to witnesses interviewed by a West Papua Media stringer, the dice gambling rings are part of an informal industry that served to provide daily living income for its organisers, but was usually tolerated by local police in return for a cut of proceedings to supplement their police salary.
Indonesian military and police have a long history of running highly lucrative illegal gambling operations on everything from raffles to chicken, dog and human fighting, to premiere movie tickets. Gamblers and street thugs lured to the easy money are often recruited as the muscle behind preman organisation Pemuda Pancasila, a Kopassus proxy militia front that had thrown its weight behind the Prabowo Presidential Election campaign, casting a dark shadow of fear over Papua over recent weeks.
Just after 3.30pm local time on July 2, Police Brigadiers (equivalent to Chief Sergeant) Asriadi and Samsul Huda from Abepura's Tanah Hitam motorcycle unit, were conducting their allegedly corrupt daily shakedown rounds to demand protection money (tax) from stallholders when they arrived at the Judi venue. It is still unknown why the officers decided to shakedown this particular venue given that preman and police usually have a sophisticated and lucrative system of payoffs.
Gamblers reported that the two police officers walked into the venue without paying admission, angering the Indonesian colonist doorman, whereupon the police drew weapons and demanded that all present (including Papuan and colonist spectators) pay a flat rate "tax" to the police.
Witnesses claimed that the two officers and a customer began arguing after some gamblers refuse to hand over any money, saying they were tired of being shaken down. One witness claimed that the “preman” (gangster) manager of the venue pushed the police officer, complaining that protection money had already been paid to a higher ranking officer, and the shakedown would be reported. The officer Asriadi then smacked another gambler, the relatives of whom retaliated by seizing his rifle and throwing chairs, bottles and other objects at the fleeing officers. None of these claims could be independently verified by WPM.
Unverified reports also claim that all the gamblers, both Papuan and Indonesian, then chased the officers through the markets. An Indonesian colonist trader named Herman told the Jakarta Post that Brig Asriadi tripped, and “was mobbed and stabbed by the gamblers.”
Claims that the rioters had stoned the
officers to death remain unverified and only alleged by
Indonesian colonist traders. No Papuan witnesses could be
found to confirm the claims independently of the official
The commotion and cries for help from the bashed police were immediately responded to by over a hundred armed police, Brimob and members of the Australian trained counter-terror squad Detachment 88, according to witnesses who described how large groups of armed men came running from every direction within seconds of the initial chase. They in turn were joined by over 50 plain clothes intelligence, police and military, including scores of Kopassus ojek riders, in seizing and beating large groups of civilians randomly, including traders and shoppers.
Reports remain unconfirmed whether security forces opened fire directly on bystanders at the markets or fired into the air, but many gunshots were heard by various witnesses, causing Papuan civilians to flee from the area. Nine Papuan gamblers were taken into custody as suspects, however the perpetrators of the fatal beating and those who had seized weapons were allowed to escape by security forces. In addition, police and plain clothes agents arrested a further 14 Papuan bystanders, who were uninvolved in the affray. All apart from the nine were released by police late that night, most having sustained injuries from their beatings. The status of the nine Papuan gamblers who were undergoing interrogation through to the weekend were unable to be ascertained at time of writing.
The violence occurred as Papuans in Jayapura were on edge, as arbitrary arrests, shootings and unprovoked beatings on civilians by security forces intensified ahead of the July 9 Indonesian presidential election. Many Papuan civil society and pro-independence groups joined a boycott call challenging the legitimacy of Indonesia’s colonial regime. The boycott was met with calls from the Indonesian military commander in Papua, Maj-General Christian Zebua, to “shoot dead any person” distributing election boycott materials – a threat which had materialised throughout the Land of Papua.
The deaths of the three young Papuan students, at a time when Indonesian police are almost exclusively targeting Yali student and civil resistance activists (who make up the bulk of the membership of the West Papua National Committee) in a nationwide crackdown on freedom of expression, will only reinforce perceptions of a premeditated Indonesian security force campaign to eradicate Papua of Yali people. “The TNI hate the Yali with a passion, as this is the tribe that Benny Wenda is from,” an observer told WPM during the investigation, referring to the high profile UK-based leader of the Free West Papua Campaign.
Certainly members of the families of the dead agree that their dead children and brothers are being unfairly targeted.
Sabusek Kabak (24) was a university student from the Yali village of Porongkoli in Yahukimo Papua. He passed through the Youtefa market at 8.00am from the Kilometre 9 post at Koya and continued on to the GKI Church students Hostel Liborang in Padang Bulan.
According to interviews with his younger brother Wemen, friends and witnesses, at 3.30pm on July 2 Sabusek went again to Youtefa, planning to return to Kilo 9 with Wemen. After arriving at the Youtefa market he and his younger sibling didn’t have enough money to pay for the taxi back to Koya and went to look for a friend to borrow some money for their transport home.
As they were looking for taxi money, the riot broke out at the market. Some ran and there was the sound of gunfire, but Sabusek and Wemen were confused. Sabusek and Wemen agreed to go together and seek protection at the Bank of Papua at the Youtefa market, without realising that there were “preman” plainclothed police manning a roadblock outside the bank.
They were then confronted and surrounded by the preman who were armed with sharp knives, machetes, and pistols, when Sabusek pushed his young brother behind him and told him to escape. A transmigrant trader hid Wemen in their kiosk, however the preman police caught up and stabbed Sabusek with a bayonet through the heart, killing him instantly. Wemen and the trader witnessed the killing, as the preman walked away and left Sabusek’s body there. A woman from Biak, unknown to Wemen, told the migrant who had helped Wemen escape, “That is my child. Come my dear child let’s go home”. She then took Wemen to the protection of a Church hostel.
Sabusek’s body was not picked up by Police until the morning of 3 July 2014 by Police, who took his body to the Bhayangkara Hospital. The Kabak family were initially prevented from retrieving Sabusek’s body, and were forced to return with the Abepura Police Chief and District Head so the family could take the body. He was buried on 4 July 2014 at the public cemetery in Tanah Hitam, Abepura at 3.00pm by his family.
The Kabak family have demanded that the Papuan Police be held accountable for Sabusek Kabak’s death, and that there be an immediate arrest of those responsible and they face the process of law in the immediate future.
Neither was the second victim involved in any form of opposition action against the police, yet he was savagely beaten until dead. Before the riot at the Youtefa market started, Yenias Wandikbo, a 20 year old Yali student, had been drinking alcohol together and relaxing with a friend during that day at the Engros Beach, until they ran out of drink in the early afternoon. Yenias and his friend then headed home from Engros via to the Youtefa market. In going there they reached the front of the YAMAS campus still unaware that there was a problem at the market, where they separated because of the everyday threat posed by security forces when buying alcohol. Yenias stumbled upon the riot area and straight into an ambush of plainclothes Indonesian preman – believed to be Kopassus soldiers by witnesses due to the impunity in which they moved. These preman then caught, beat and killed Yenias, witnessed by many in broad daylight less than one hundred metres away from the Youtefa market.
Yenias was beaten about the head with such extreme force that his brow, nose area, and rear of his skull was split apart. After Yenias was killed, his body was taken by the police to the Bhayangkara Hospital, where it was held until 3.20pm on July 4. Yenias’ family took him home to Nayak Hostel in Abepura, in order to transport his body to be taken back to Wamena.
Demi Kepno, a 24 year old Engineering Student of Yali origin from Abenah District, Yalimo, was killed after being abducted by police in Abepura, at the same instance as the gambling ring was being broken up in Youtefa market, but some distance away from the market.
As with the two other victims, When Demi Kepno, together with several friends heard about the incident at the old market, they avoided returning to their homes. Demi was called by his girlfriend - who it emerged was working as an intelligence agent - who wanted to meet with him, and he went to meet her in front of the Multi Crosir supermarket. Demi's girlfriend ordered him to get in a black Avanza vehicle, without any idea he was getting in a car with plainclothes security forces
Demi was brought to the Yanmor Police station in Tanah Hitam just above Abepura, where he was interrogated by fully armed anti-terror police. He managed to escape from the Police station, fleeing in the direction of Tanah Hitam Mountain. The police and plainclothes agents gave chase and Demi entered a house of a Butonese migrant, which was surrounded and searched by police, cornering Demi around 5.15pm local time, according to witnesses interviewed by WPM’s stringer. Demi allegedly picked up a beam of wood in self-defence as police opened fire on him, hitting him in the abdomen. However, the gunshots did not kill him, so the plainclothes agents were seen to repeatedly stab Demi in the chest and neck with a bayonet, until he was dead.
His body was taken to the Bhayangkara Hospital, and the victim’s family took the body away at 4.35pm the following day to the family home at Tanah Hitam, and was buried in Abepura at the public cemetery on 5 July 2014.
Indonesian police in Abepura and Jayapura refused several attempts by WPM to provide a response to these allegations.