Laorens Sama (right) on May 7 shows journalists a photo alleged to be evidence that prison escappe Maikel Ilintamon was tortured to death. Also present at the media briefing was Imanuel Gobay, head of the Papua Legal Aid Institute. (Photo by Benny Mawel/ucanews.com)
Rights activists and relatives of two prison inmates in Indonesia's restive Papua province believe they were tortured to death after trying to escape.
They reject an initial account by prison officials in the provincial capital, Jayapura, that the pair were killed when they fell from a perimeter wall. Later there was a new claim by authorities that the men were killed by angry local residents.
The family and rights groups have called on police and the National Human Rights Commission to conclusively establish the cause of their deaths.
On April 24, ten inmates escaped from Abepura Prison.
However, nine failed in their bid for freedom, including Maikel Ilintamon and Selius Logo who prison authorities claimed were found dead.
Ilintamon was sentenced to 12 years for theft, rape and murder and had spent three years in jail, while Logo was sentenced to one year in prison for breaking the windows of a house and had been in prison for six months.
Both were in Jayapura to study when they committed the crimes.
Laorens Sama, a spokesman of Ilintamon’s family, said he and relatives did not believe the official account.
"The family has seen the wounds," Sama said.
"They look like gunshot wounds and stabbing.”
He showed images of Ilintamon’s body at a media briefing in Jayapura on May 7.
Imanuel Gobay, who heads the Papua Legal Aid Institute, said legal assistance would be provided to the families of the dead men.
"From photos of the victims we can see that a crime was done,” Gobay said.
The focus now would be on seeking to find the culprits, he said, adding that information obtained would be passed to both police and the Human Rights Commission.
He said that the prison's management must held be accountable.
Korneles Rumboirusi, the head of Abepura Prison, denied the involvement of his subordinates, saying local people captured and tortured the escapees.
"When I asked them [prison guards], they told me they received the inmates in such a condition," said Rumboirusi.
"But we are open to anyone who can provide evidence to find the perpetrators."
The prison chief added that he would cooperate with police and the Human Rights Commission.
Frist Ramandey, who heads the commission’s Papuan office, said he had already met seven of the inmates who tried to escape.
They stated that they were tortured outside the prison before they were taken back to their cells, he told ucanews.com.
"But we are not sure yet who tortured them," Ramandey said.
One potential witness, who requested anonymity, told ucanews.com that the inmates were tortured by trained people.
"Ordinary people would beat others randomly," he said.
"But those people directed their punches on the victims' livers and heads. Then they dragged them back into the prison," he said.
“Mikael Ilintamon died on the spot, while Selius Logo died inside the prison."
Father Wilhelmus Gonsa, director of Franciscan Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation in Papua, said that prisoners have the right to live and be treated fairly, and no one should act arbitrarily against them.
"Prisoners are human beings," he said. "They must be treated humanely."