JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — A spokesman for the family of an indigenous Papuan teenager who died after 24 hours in Indonesian police custody said that the 17-year-old had multiple bruises and injuries on his body and that it doesn’t accept the police explanation he was killed by alcohol poisoning.
The teenager, Rico Ayomi, died March 13 just hours after police returned him to his family after holding him in custody for alleged theft. According to police, they had rescued him from an angry mob of villagers in the coast West Papua city of Sorong.
One of the photos released by police showed the dead teenager with a plastic bottle of 70 percent alcohol placed beside him.
The actual cause of death remains unclear. An autopsy has been conducted by police doctors from another province but results have not yet been released.
The leader of the Sorong Youth and Student Association, Simon Soren, who is representing Ayomi’s family, said family members were shocked when four police officers bought Ayomi to his family home about midnight unable to stand or speak.
There were bruises on his neck and chest, injuries on his face and arms, and he was bleeding from the mouth, said Soren. Ayomi died about 5 a.m. on March 13, he said.
A close-up photo of Ayomi after his death provided by Soren shows abrasion-like injuries on his face and an arm.
Violent and frequently unexplained killings of indigenous Papuans are common in Indonesia’s easternmost provinces of Papua and West Papua, a region annexed by Indonesia in 1962 and where an insurgency against Indonesian rule simmers.
The region’s mineral resources have been exploited for decades by the U.S. mining company Freeport, and provided significant tax income for the Indonesian government. But indigenous Papuans have benefited little and are poorer, sicker and more likely to die young than people elsewhere in Indonesia.
“We will bring this case to justice so that no more indigenous Papuans are treated arbitrarily and unfairly,” said Soren.
West Papua police spokesman Hary Supriyono said Ayomi was unconscious for nearly all the time he was held in jail and also vomited. Police took the teenager to a hospital, were they were told he was drunk and then delivered him to his family, Supriyono said.
Supriyono did not respond to additional questions about the police account of events, including why police waited 24 hours before taking Ayomi to a hospital.
“The victim’s family who are Serui tribe did not entirely accept that Rico Ayomi died of alcohol,” Supriyono said in a text message. “Some of them believed that he died from being beaten by villagers from Seram. There has been a long dispute between Serui tribes and villagers of Seram descent.”