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Indonesia President SBY Covered Up Ambush Murder of U.S. Citizens

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1 July, 2009 - Previously secret U.S. State Department documents implicate the President of Indonesia in a probable cover-up of an ambush in West Papua. The documents show Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is running for reelection on July 8, maneuvering behind the scenes to manage the investigation into the August 2002 murder of three teachers -- one Indonesian and two U.S. citizens.

"Yudhoyono brought politics into a case that should have just been about forensic facts," said Dr. Eben Kirksey, an anthropologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz and a regional specialist. "The documents reveal that Yudhoyono initially stalled attempts by the FBI to launch an independent investigation," he continued. The U.S. Congress, outraged at these stalling tactics, blocked funds for Indonesian military training until there was cooperation with the FBI.

The documents released today add a new twist to a hotly contested Presidential race.

"Yudhoyono is not the only controversial former soldier running in the presidential election," said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network. "Vice presidential candidates and former generals Wiranto and Prabowo Subianto were involved in well-documented human rights crimes in East Timor and throughout Indonesia."

When a police investigation implicated Indonesian military shooters as the likely murderers of the schoolteachers, Yudhoyono became involved. Yudhoyono, a retired General and then the Coordinating Minister of Political and Security Affairs, wrote to the Charge D'Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta that "I have dispatched a fact finding team led by one of my deputies to Timika and its surrounding (sic), to find additional information and other related facts especially on a broader political and security aspects of the incident." Timika, the site of the attack, is in the remote province of Papua, where U.S. mining giant Freeport McMoRan (FCX) operates a concession.

"Yudhoyono's stalling tactics let the Indonesian military cover their tracks, said Paula Makabory, a Papuan human rights activist who founded the Institute of Papuan Advocacy and Human Rights in Australia.  "The 'fact finders' under his command systematically intimidated witnesses and tampered with material evidence," Makabory continued.

Following high-level negotiations with Bush administration officials, who promised Indonesia millions in military aid, Yudhoyono allowed the FBI into his country. "By the time the FBI were granted access the trail was cold," said Makabory.  "The FBI investigation proceeded within a narrow framework that fit the Bush administration agenda," said Dr. Kirksey.

"The Special Agents found a fall man, while tiptoeing around evidence connecting their man to the Indonesian military," Kirksey added.

Antonius Wamang, an ethnic Papuan, was indicted by a U.S. grand jury for his role in the attack. He was apprehended in 2006 by the FBI and sentenced to life in Indonesian prison. Wamang had extensive ties to the Indonesian military, according to a peer-reviewed article, Criminal Collaborations, co-authored by Dr. Kirksey and Andreas Harsono, an Indonesian investigative reporter (link below).

The declassified documents disclosed today were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA) by Dr. Bradley Simpson of the National Security Archive. The State Department found 62 documents relevant to the Timika murders. They released only two of these documents in full and 20 others "with excisions." The rest were withheld. The FBI did not release any documents, writing: No records responsive to your FOIA request were located by a search of the automated indices. The FBI is notorious for not complying with Freedom of Information Act requests.

"The documents reveal evidence of a cover-up," said Dr. Kirksey. "The fact that many relevant documents were not released is more evidence of the same."

Selections from these documents are published here in seven distinct sections [links to the PDFs of the documents can be found here: http://etan.org/news/2009/06Timika.htm

1) Response by the State Department and the FBI to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request

2) Initial Reports About Attackers; Yudhoyono Orders a Quick Response The first State Department reports about the 2002 attack seriously entertained two theories: that the perpetrators were Papuan independence fighters (OPM guerillas) or rogue elements of the Indonesian military. The documents note that the assault took place on a foggy mountain road near a military checkpoint and an Army Strategic Reserve Forces post. Upon learning of the attack, Yudhoyono ordered a quick response to restore security and to investigate the attack.

The U.S. Embassy noted in a cable to Washington: "Many Papuan groups are calling for an independent investigation led by the U.S. Calls for an independent probe are unrealistic, but we believe that Papua's Police Chief, who enjoys a good reputation with Papuan activists (and U.S.), can conduct a fair investigation." The Police Chiefs investigation later indicated that the Indonesian military was involved. The FBI subsequently launched a separate probe.

3) Attack Victims Treated in Secrecy at Australian Hospital

The survivors of the assault were airlifted out of Indonesia to a hospital in Townsend, Australia. Here U.S. diplomats, the FBI, Queensland Police, and the Australian Defense Force kept a tight lid on the situationpreventing the victims from speaking with the press and even from contacting family members for the first two days. See: Tom Hyland, "Lost in the Fog," The Age, September 28, 2008. http://www.theage.com.au/world/lost-in-the-fog-20080927-4pb8.html?page=-1

4) Yudhoyono Assumes Coordinating Role in Investigation

Following police reports of Indonesian military involvement, these documents reveal that Yudhoyono began to play a more active role in managing and influencing the direction of the investigation. Yudhoyono met repeatedly with the FBI field investigators, as well as high-level U.S. diplomats, blocking their initial attempts to gain unmediated access to witnesses and material evidence. This file includes a letter from Yudhoyono to the Charge D'Affaires of the U.S. Embassy where he outlines a strategy for managing the broader political and security aspects of the incident.


5) Commander-In-Chief Concerned About Washington Post Interview

The Washington Post reported in 2002 that senior Indonesian military officers, including armed forces commander General Endriartono Sutarto, had discussed an unspecified operation against Freeport McMoRan before the ambush in Timika. General Sutarto vehemently denied that he or any other top military officers had discussed any operation targeting Freeport. He sued The Washington Post for US$1 billion and demanded an apology from the paper. Several months after this lawsuit was settled out of court, The Washington Post asked to interview Sutarto. This document contains notes from a meeting between the U.S. Ambassador and Commander-in-Chief Sutarto where this interview request was discussed: "Clearly concerned, General Sutarto asked why the Washington Post wanted to interview him, as well as TNIs Strategic Intelligence Agency (BAIS) and the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) Chiefs regarding the Timika case."  See: Ellen Nakashima and Alan Sipress, "Indonesia Military Allegedly Talked of Targeting Mine," The Washington Post, November 3, 2002. http://etan.org/et2002c/november/01-09/03mine.htm

6) Most Important Issue in U.S.-Indonesia Bilateral Relationship

The U.S. Ambassador stressed in a June 2003 meeting with Yudhoyono that justice in the Timika killings was "the most important issue in the bilateral relationship." During this period, FBI agents were given intermittent access to evidence. Yudhoyono continued to play an active role in coordinating the political aspects of the investigation. Taking an unusual personal interest for someone with a Ministerial level position, Yudhoyono repeatedly met with the FBI case agents the low-ranking U.S. investigators who were deployed to Timika for field investigations.

7) Attorney General Ashcroft Suppressed Evidence

On June 24, 2005, Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller announced that Antonius Wamang, an ethnic Papuan, was indicted by a Federal Grand Jury for the Timika murders. The indictment alleged that Wamang was a "terrorist" who sought independence from Indonesia. Following this announcement, three respected human rights groups and indigenous organizations charged that the U.S. Government suppressed evidence linking Wamang to the Indonesian military. A peer-reviewed article, titled Criminal Collaborations: Antonius Wamang and the Indonesian Military in Timika, details the nature of these links. The group called for Wamang to be given a fair trial in the U.S., rather than in notoriously corrupt Indonesian courts. See: Eben Kirksey and Andreas Harsono, "Criminal Collaborations," South East Asia Research, vol 16, no 2.  http://skyhighway.com/~ebenkirksey/writing/Kirksey-Harsono_Timika.pdf

Contact

Eben Kirksey, Ph.D., University of California (Santa Cruz)
        +1.831.429.8276 or +1.831.600.5937 (English or Bahasa Indonesia)

Paula Makabory, Institute of Papuan Advocacy and Human Rights (Melbourne)
        +61.402.547.517 (English or Bahasa Indoneisa)

John M. Miller, East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (New York)
        +1.718.596.7668 (English)

 

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John M. Miller is National Coordinator of the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN). He is Treasurer of the War Resisters League.

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