Asia-Pacific

Indonesian police apologise for using snake to interrogate suspect

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Indonesian police have issued an apology, while also seeking to justify their use of a two-metre long snake.

Police in Indonesia's eastern province of Papua have apologised for using a live snake as part of interrogation methods to deal with petty crime. 

Jayawijaya police chief Tonny Ananda Swadaya said the two officers had relocated and would be provided with ethics training, AP news agency reports.

However, police also sought to justify their actions by explaining the snake was not venomous and officers did not beat the alleged thief. 

Human rights lawyer Veronica Koman condemned the use of a live snake as interrogation technique, saying it breached police policies and several laws.

She told the AP it is not the first time snakes have reportedly been used by police and military to initimidate indigneous Papuans.

In January, activist Sam Lokon was put in a jail cell with a live snake and beaten. Mr Lokon is a member of the West Papua National Committee, which advocates for independence from Indonesia.

Ms Konan said the apology from police is "very rare" and was likely prompted by the growing visibility of a video posted to then circulated on social media.

In the 80-second video, a two-metre long brown coloured snake is shown wrapped around the neck and torso of the suspect, who is also handcuffed. An officer is shown on camera shoving the head of the snake into the suspect's face, which elicits a reaction of fear and panic.

The audio captures officers appearing to question the suspect on how many times he had tried to steal mobile phones.

Indonesian police and military have implemented a crackdown on independence activists after a December incident when separatist fighters killed 19 labourers on a construction site for the trans-Papua highway.

Papua has witnessed bouts of violence since the early 1960s when Indonesia took control of the territory, which was previously colonised by the Dutch.

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