Indonesia military court sentences 4 soldiers over Papua killings

A military court in Indonesia’s restive Papua region has jailed four soldiers for their roles in the brutal murder and mutilation of four civilians, according to a court document and local media.

The court in the provincial capital, Jayapura, found the four guilty of premeditated murder on Wednesday for the killing of the four men who had tried to buy weapons from the soldiers in August 2022.

Two of the four soldiers were sentenced to life in prison, a third received a 20-year sentence, and a fourth was jailed for 15 years, according to a court document seen by the Reuters news agency.

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The four, who appeared in court wearing military uniforms, were also from their positions in the military, according to a local media outlet in Papua, Jubi News.

Jubi News reported on Thursday that a total of six soldiers and four civilians were charged with the killings. One of the six soldiers died before receiving a verdict and another received a life sentence last month. The trial of the four civilians was continuing, according to the news organisation.

According to reports, the four Papuan men were killed last year after a deal to buy weapons from the Indonesian troops went awry. After their deaths, the mutilated bodies of the four were placed in sacks which were then thrown into a river near the city of Timika on the southern coast of Papua.

Papua police said that one of the four people killed was linked to the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB), a rebel group which has fought for decades to win independence from Indonesia. A spokesperson for the TPNPB last year called on the to hold the perpetrators of the killing accountable or risk further violence.

Indonesia maintains a heavy military presence in Papua, where small groups of rebel fighters have for decades waged a low-level, but increasingly deadly, battle for independence.

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Indonesia’s military has also faced accusations of human rights abuses in Papua, which it has denied, but investigations into such allegations are rare.

The TPNPB on Wednesday released images that they say showed a New Zealand pilot that they took hostage last week. The group said that pilot, Philip Mehrtens, would not be freed until authorities acknowledge the independence of the region.

Sebby Sambom, a spokesman for the TPNPB, shared photographs and videos of a man wearing a denim jacket, surrounded by a group of about a dozen fighters, some armed with guns and bows.

“The Papuan military that has taken me captive to fight for Papuan independence, they ask for the military to go home to Indonesia and if not, I will remain captive for my life,” Mehrtens said at one point in the TPNPB video.

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