Jayapura. Human rights activists on Friday slammed Indonesian police for the killing of a prominent Papuan independence leader who was allegedly involved in a series of mysterious shootings.
Authorities said on Thursday that Mako Tabuni, deputy chairman of secessionist West Papua National Committee (KNPB), was armed when shot by police as he tried to escape a raid in the town of Waena near the provincial capital Jayapura.
“Even if he resisted arrest and tried to escape, police should not have shot him to death. As far as we know the KNPB is not an armed group,” said Ifdhal Kasim, head of the government-backed National Human Rights Commission.
He told reporters his group, the country’s top rights body, would investigate whether police followed proper procedures before opening fire on the activist.
The incident ignited a wave of anger among residents in Waena, who set homes and cars ablaze on Thursday.
“If police suspected Tabuni to be behind all the shootings they should not have killed him. They should have proven the allegations,” said Poengki Indarti of Imparsial, an independent human rights group.
KNPB spokesman Warpo Wetipo said that according to witness accounts Tabuni was unarmed and police kept shooting at him even after he was down with gunshots to his leg.
Police said they had arrested four people over the past two weeks over a spate of violence in the restive province, including an incident in which a German tourist was shot and seriously wounded late last month.
Among those arrested was KNPB chairman Bukhtar Tabuni, who is a cousin of the victim.
About 500 people, riding motorcycles and trucks, escorted Mako Tabuni’s body on Friday from hospital to his home in Sentani, some 45 kilometers away.
Indonesia in 1969 took control of the Papua region — a former Dutch colony on the western half of New Guinea island — after a vote widely seen as a sham.
Jakarta keeps a tight grip on Papua, with the military regularly clashing with locals. Foreign journalists are restricted from reporting freely in the region.
More than 170 people are imprisoned in Indonesia for promoting separatism, most of them from Papua or the Maluku islands in eastern Indonesia, according to Human Rights Watch.