5 Apr 2004

Papuan witness retracts killing accusations against Indonesian military

2:00 pm on 5 April 2004

A key witness to the shooting deaths of three teachers in the Indonesian province of Papua has retracted his claim that Indonesian special forces soldiers were responsible for the deaths.

A group of unidentified gunmen opened fire on two vehicles carrying employees of the United States-owned Freeport mine from a nearby international school in August 2002.

The teachers, two Americans and an Indonesian, were killed and 12 others were wounded.

The news agency AAP reports that Decky Murib, who originally said he saw the killings, has now told a defamation hearing that he did not see soldiers carry out the attack.

He says he was paid by a local human rights group to implicate the military in the ambush.

He told the court the human rights group Els-ham had promised him more than a thousand US dollars and a trip to the US in return for a false eyewitness account.

The military is demanding the Els-ham pay more than seven million US dollars in damages and give a a public apology in local and international newspapers over the accusations.

Els-ham has denied it tried to secure false evidence.