Subject: AFP: Indonesian police step up inquiry into killing of NZ peacekeeper

Indonesian police step up inquiry into killing of NZ peacekeeper

JAKARTA, June 29 (AFP) - An Indonesian police team will leave for East Timor next week to question witnesses to the murder of a New Zealand peacekeeper there last year, the official Antara news agency said Friday.

Antara quoted East Nusa Tenggara province Police Chief Senior Superintendant Gories Mere as saying the group's investigation would also take them to New Zealand.

"Next week our team will go to Timor Lorosae (East Timor) to question eight witnesses in the murder case, and later to New Zealand to question the other witnesses," Mere said.

Leonard Manning, the New Zealand soldier serving with the UN preacekeeping force in East Timor, was shot and his body mutilated in July last year.

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark on Wednesday asked visiting Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid to ensure the killer was brought to justice.

The murder suspect, Yacobus Berek, is in police custody in Kupang, the capital of Indonesian-controlled West Timor, but has yet to be brought to trial.

Mere said the witnesses to be questioned in East Timor include two civilians in Dili, four at the site of the murder in Besapatumean, and two New Zealand soldiers in Suai.

The witnesses in New Zealand are three other soldiers, he added.

Evidence of the murder case, including the victim's uniform and belongings, will also be collected.

Wahid on Wednesday predicted difficulties in ensuring justice was served.

"I told the prime minister ... that now we have difficulty in taking those people to court .... we have to find honest judges," he said.

Scepticism over Indonesian justice standards surfaced when three men convicted of murdering UN aid workers in West Timor received 20-month prison sentences earlier this year.

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