Trial update on killing of Govt contractors in Nduga Regency – Lawyers request forensic examination of defendant’s teeth

A trial against a first suspect in the killing of road workers in the Regency of Nduga  has been ongoing at the Central Jakarta District Court since 6 January 2020. The Government contractors were killed by members of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN PB) in early December 2018. The defendant, Mispo Gwijangge is an indigenous farmer from the regency of Nduga. He has been charged with article 340 of the Indonesian Criminal Code (KUHP) in conjunction with article 55 (1) KUHP on involvement in premeditated murder. His lawyers again raised concerns about multiple shortcomings in the police investigation during trial. Mispo Gwijangge, who hardly understands the Indonesian language, was arbitrarily arrested and subsequently interrogated without the presence of lawyers or translators. He denies any involvement in the killings.

Mispo Gwijangge’s lawyers have now requested the judges to allow a forensic examination of his teeth in order to determine his biological age. The police and the public prosecutor claim that Mispo Gwijangge is 20 years old. They presented a certificate of domicile mentioning the age of 20 years. However, there is no official document of identity like a birth certificate or ID card providing clear information about Mispo’s age. Moreover, his parents claim that Mispo Gwijangge was born in 2004. If the forensic examination reveals that Mispo’s age is below 18 years, the trial would have to be stopped immediately and he would need to undergo a law enforcement process for minors. The panel judges will take a stand towards the lawyers’ request on 11 February 2020.

The lawyers also criticised the decision to conduct the trial in Jakarta instead of Wamena. The trial was shifted to Jakarta because authorities had security concerns. The change of place affects the lawyers’ ability to provide effective legal representation at court. They have high financial expenses to bring defense witnesses from the remote Nduga Regency or the highland town of Wamena to Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta. The public prosecutor on the other side has access to Government funds to cover the necessary expenses related to the trial.