Indonesian police prevent a West Papuan protester from approaching the US embassy in Jakarta in August 2019. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

Armed Group Denies Burning Church in Papua

BY :ROBERT ISIDORUS

MARCH 19, 2020

Jayapura. The Indonesian Military and National Police have accused what they call an "armed criminal group," or KKB, of burning down a church in Tembagapura, Papua, on March 12. 

But a spokesperson for the National Liberation Army of West Papua-Free Papua Movement, Sebby Sambom, denied the allegation.

"We believe the burning of the church was part of a [political] play by the Indonesian Military and National Police to discredit the National Liberation Army of West Papua and the Free Papua Movement. Burning houses and churches is nothing new for them. It's been their play since the 1960s," Sebby said on Wednesday.

He said the National Police should provide evidence and witnesses to prove the allegation in court.

The government must allow an independent team and the National Commission on Human Rights to oversees the investigation in Papua, according to him. 

Sebby said a fair trial will reveal the real perpetrators of the crime. 

According to Papua Police's public relations head, Chief Cmr. A.M. Kamal, separatist leader Lekagak Telenggen and other armed groups converted the church into a hideout on Tuesday.

A joint task force from the Indonesian Military and the National Police are now hot in pursuit of the group, who had fled but are still in Tembagapura.

"The church was a place for worship and community activities for people in the Opitawak village. The armed group has been spreading terror in the area in the past few weeks. They did not have a place to stay, so they wanted to turn the church into a base," Kamal said.

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