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Indonesia steps up probe into pastor's murder

Investigators hope an autopsy will clear up mystery as to who killed Reverend Yeremia Zanambani in Papua

Indonesia steps up probe into pastor's murder

Reverend Yeremia Zanambani was shot dead on Sept. 19, resulting in rebels and security forces blaming each other for his death. Authorities will conduct an autopsy to see if it sheds light on who was responsible. (Photo supplied)

An autopsy will be carried out on the body of a Protestant pastor shot dead in Indonesia’s restive Papua province last month to try and determine whether pro-separatist rebels or security forces killed him, according to a senior police official.

Both sides in the long-simmering conflict have blamed each other over the death of Reverend Yeremia Zanambani of the Gospel Tabernacle Church of Indonesia (GKII), who was found dead outside his residence in Hitadipa in Intan Jaya district on Sept. 19. 

The death of the 67-year-old pastor came shortly after the fatal shootings of a civilian and a soldier in the district, while another soldier was shot and killed in a clash with insurgents on the day the pastor’s body was found.

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To investigate the deaths, the government formed on Oct. 1 a joint fact-finding team. It has two weeks to get to the bottom of the case and report its findings to Security Minister Mahfud MD.

Benny Mamoto of the National Police Commission who leads the investigation unit said in a statement on Oct. 12 that the team “has persuaded the pastor’s family to allow an autopsy and to sign a police interrogation report.”

The family initially refused to do so due to the language barrier, limited knowledge of the law and input from other parties.

So far, the investigation team has gathered witness statements and examined the scene of the shooting, Mamoto said.

The Jakarta Post reported that several investigators were attacked by West Papua National Liberation Army gunmen last week in Mamba in nearby Sugapa district.

The English-language daily quoted the group’s spokesperson Rimba Lawingga as saying that the attack on the investigators was because “we oppose a Jakarta-sanctioned investigation team that will only make us the scapegoats.”

The shootings left two investigators injured.

Commenting on the planned autopsy, Ronald Tapilatu from the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI) said he believed an autopsy on Reverend Yeremia Zanambani was necessary.

“We hope the results will offer a true path to justice for the victim. The point is that the team’s investigation results could reveal who the real perpetrators are,” he told UCA News.

The PGI, an umbrella group of Protestant denominations in the country, previously wrote to President Joko Widodo to demand a thorough investigation into the killing of the pastor.

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