Police in Papua use slithering live snake on alleged phone thief during interrogation (Video)

A live snake being used on an alleged phone thief during a police interrogation in the Indonesian province of Papua. Photo: Screengrabs by Tribun
A live snake being used on an alleged phone thief during a police interrogation in the Indonesian province of Papua. Photo: Screengrabs by Tribun

Police in the Indonesian province of Papua admitted that an officer used a live snake on an alleged petty criminal, in what they claimed to be an unorthodox interrogation technique, after a video depicting the incident went viral last week.

In the video, a copy of which was uploaded by local news website Tribun, a young Papuan man is seen sitting down with his back against a wall in what appears to be a police interrogation room. The interrogating police officers had coiled a large snake — likely an adult python — around the man’s neck.

The alleged thief appears to be too scared to even open his eyes with the snake wrapped around him as the police officer who’s visible in frame of the video repeatedly presses him about how many cell phones he had stolen. Another officer, possibly the one who recorded the video, can be heard saying “open his eyes” on a couple of occasions.

The snake proved too much for the alleged thief as he shrieked in fear towards the end of the video, and eventually confessed to stealing the phones. The officers can be heard chuckling at times throughout the 1 minute 30 seconds clip.

After the video went viral, the Papua Provincial Police apologized for the incident but said the snake was not venomous and that there was no physical abuse against the alleged theft. Nevertheless, they say the officers in the video are going to face an ethics investigation by internal affairs.

“Because [the alleged thief] did not confess at first, there was an initiative to use the snake to get the truth out of him and that proved effective because the culprit eventually confessed,” Papua Police Internal Affairs Divison Head Grand Commissioner Jannus P Siregar said, as quoted by Kompas.

According to the police, the alleged thief was handed over to them by locals in the Jayawijaya District after they caught him stealing on Feb. 4. It’s not clear whether or not he has been charged with theft or if his confession — which was made under duress — would stand up in a criminal trial.

In an interview with the Associated Press, human rights lawyer Veronica Koman said using the snake on the alleged thief constituted torture and violated several policies and laws. She said it was only the latest of several reports of such an unorthodox interrogation method being used to terrorize Papuan detainees, which was symptomatic of a culture of racism against indigenous Papuans. She said that, in January, a member of the West Papua National Committee, a group that advocates for Papuan independence from Indonesia, was also put in a cell with a snake and beaten after being arrested.

Indonesian police and military have cracked down on rebel fighters in Papua following the killing of 19 road construction workers in West Papua in December. Papuan independence is a highly taboo subject in Indonesia, which was highlighted once again recently by the treason conviction of a Polish man — the first foreigner to be convicted as such — who was accused of having links to Papuan separatists.

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