Indonesia’s military is investigating its personnel linked to the death of a young West Papuan man while in custody.

Eighteen-year-old Oktovianus Betere died after being taken in by military (TNI) personnel two weeks ago.

The death occured in Asiki district of remote Boven Digoel regency, about fifty kilometres west of Indonesia’s border with Papua New Guinea.

Betere had been involved in an incident at a local market.

The TNI said he was accused of stealing and subsequently taken into custody.

The Merauke Archdiocese said that upon capture, Betere was assaulted and brought to a military post where he was tortured and killed

According to the TNI, the detainee complained of feeling dizzy and weak, and was taken to a clinic where he was pronounced dead.

It said any TNI personnel suspected of being involved in the death were being investigated thoroughly, and would be held to account if proven guilty.

The family of the victim have complained that his body was quickly contained in a coffin by the military who rushed them into proceeding with burial with intent to minimise publicity over the incident.

Speaking to the Jakarta Post, the local police chief Commander Syamsurijal addressed Betere’s death and played down reports circulating among locals regarding the events that led to his passing.

He appeared to confirm that the perpetrator was a TNI soldier, but denied any attempts at a cover-up.

Police told RNZ Pacific that the TNI Cendrawasih command had taken steps to take firm action against any members who perpetrated the death, but that police would not interfere in the probe.

The incident follows the death of another local Papuan in the same district after allegedly being hit by a police officer while making a complaint against a palm oil company in May.

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