MAC: Mines and Communities

FBI Resumes Freeport Probe

Published by MAC on 2003-12-07

FBI Resumes Freeport Probe


December 7, 2003

Members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will this week resume their probe into last year's murder of two Americans and an Indonesian near the huge Freeport gold mine in Papua province.

Unidentified gunmen on August 31, 2001, ambushed two vehicles carrying mostly teachers from Freeport's Tembagapura International School, killing Americans Ted Burgon and Ricky Spier and their Indonesian colleague Bambang Riwanto. Eight others were wounded.

Papua Police initially concluded members of the Army's elite Special Forces (Kopassus) may have been involved in the killings. Those police were subsequently removed from the case. The military carried out a new investigation and absolved itself from any wrongdoing.

Sources allege that members of the Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI) were behind the attack in an effort to extort more protection money from Freeport, but the military has strongly denied any involvement and initially blamed the killings on poorly armed Papuan separatist rebels.

The US government has decided not to resume International Military Education and Training (IMET) funds to Indonesia until effective measures are taken to prosecute those responsible for the ambush.

FBI agents began investigating the killings last year but complained of a lack of independent access to witnesses and evidence. Cooperation was improved after US President George W. Bush told President Megawati Sukarnoputri he wanted foreign agents involved in the investigation, as had happened after the October 2002 Bali bombings.

So far the FBI investigators have not yet publicly blamed any particular group for the Freeport killings, keenly aware that the Bush administration wants to keep Indonesia on its side in the "war on terrorism".

Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Thursday (4/12/03) said the returning FBI team is expected to bring the results of the forensic investigations into several pieces of evidence. He also said the team would work closely with Indonesian police.

Meanwhile, TNI commander General Endriartono Sutarto expressed hope the FBI agents would be able to resolve the case. "Principally, we want the truth to come out. If there is no involvement, say there is none. If there is TNI involvement, say there is," he was quoted as saying by Reuters. Timah Profit to Soar State-controlled tin miner PT Tambang Timah has forecast its net profit for 2003 will surge to Rp80 billion ($9.4 million) from Rp11.28 billion in 2002, largely due to increases in world tin prices.

Company president Thobrani Alwi said international tin prices averaged $4.758 per ton in the third quarter of this year, up from about $4.10 a year earlier.

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