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Thursday, 22 November, 2001, 13:58 GMT
Irian Jaya leader 'was murdered'
A woman weeps over the coffin, which is draped with the banned Morning Star separatist flag
Thousands attended the funeral of Theys Eluay
Indonesian police in the restive province of Irian Jaya have for the first time described the death of pro-independence leader Theys Eluay as murder.


There is a strong indication that this is a murder case,

Janner Pasaribu, Indonesian police
Mr Eluay was found suffocated almost two weeks ago in his overturned car hours after being abducted.

Family and supporters of Mr Eluay have accused the military of carrying out the killing, but senior officers have denied the allegations.


Mr Eluay's death caused an outpouring of grief in the province and thousands of mourners attended his funeral last Saturday.

"Based on preliminary evidence gathered from witnesses, there is a strong indication that this is a murder case," said provincial police spokesman, Adjunct Chief Commissioner Janner Pasaribu.

He said more than 100 people had been questioned.

Mystery

The 64-year-old pro-independence leader went missing on 10 November while returning home after dining with the head of the army's special forces. His body was found in his crushed car at the bottom of a ravine the following day.

Theys Eluay
Theys Eluay was on trial for treason
Mr Eluay's driver, Aristoteles Masoka, who is still missing, told Mr Eluay's family in a brief mobile telephone call that they had been abducted by a group of non-Irianese.

Mr Eluay had recently rejected moves by President Megawati Sukarnoputri to grant the province a degree of autonomy.

On Thursday a top minister said the president planned to go ahead with a visit to Irian Jaya next month despite the latest tension.

It was not decided whether the visit would be before or after Christmas, said security minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Changes ahead

The visit would be to celebrate Christmas with the mainly Christian population and also to present the new laws, he added.

The new laws, which come into effect on 22 December, will give Irian Jaya a greater share of its rich mineral resource revenues.

The government has ruled out full independence for the province, which lies on the western half of New Guinea island, but it hopes more autonomy will end nearly 40 years of separatist fighting there.

The province will change its name to Papua, it will be able to fly its own independence flag and use its own anthem.

Mr Eluay and four members of the Papua Presidium, the pro-independence umbrella group which he headed, had been on trial, charged with treason for trying to set up an independent state of West Papua.

See also:

17 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
Thousands attend Irian Jaya funeral
13 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Grief in Irian Jaya
11 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
Separatist leader killed in Indonesia
23 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Irian Jaya to get more autonomy
03 Oct 01 | Asia-Pacific
Irian Jaya rebels still threaten town
16 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Megawati sorry for rights abuses
04 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Irian Jaya declared independent
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