January 13, 2006

Indonesia declares suspects over Americans’ killings

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian police have declared eight
of 12 arrested men as suspects in the killing of two American
teachers in remote Papua province more than three years ago, a
top policeman said on Friday.

Police released the four others who had been held for the
killing of the teachers from a school run by PT Freeport
Indonesia, a unit of U.S.-based Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold
Inc, which operates mines in the Papuan mountains.

Ties between Indonesia and the United States were strained
after the incident in 2002, and in the next year Congress
blocked some military training aid to Indonesia to show its

Relations between Indonesia and the United States have
improved since, and the arrests came after Washington restored
military ties in November with the world's most populous Muslim
nation as a reward for its help in the U.S.-led war on

"We are still detaining the eight people and (they) will be
brought to Jakarta," national police deputy spokesman Anton
Bahrul Alam told reporters.

"These eight people have been declared as suspects," Alam
said, adding police may press charges on grounds of
pre-meditated murder which carries a maximum death penalty.

He said none of them were members of Indonesia's military
or police.

Indonesian police have said one of the detained was
Anthonius Wamang, a separatist rebel indicted by a U.S. federal
grand jury in 2004 on two counts of murder and several counts
of attempted murder in connection with the killings.

The investigation into the shooting was a key factor behind
the U.S. decision to fully restore military ties with

Before the resumption, Washington had said full military
ties required prosecution of the people behind the Papua

Washington cut back military ties after Indonesian troops
shot at demonstrators in East Timor in 1991, killing dozens,
when the tiny territory was ruled by Jakarta.

Ties were severed after pro-Jakarta militias backed by
elements in the military sacked East Timor in 1999 when the
territory voted for independence.