WASHINGTON – More than four years after an attack in Indonesia left shrapnel in her torso and her husband dead,Patsy Spier came here to thank Sen. Wayne Allard,R-Colo.,Tuesday for his legislative support.
The Denver resident's visit to the senator's Washington office comes about a month after an Indonesian court sentenced one of the killers,Antonius Wamang,to life in prison. Six others received lighter penalties.
Spier and her husband,Rick Spier,a Boulder native,were working as contract teachers in Indonesia in 2002. While returning from a picnic in Papua on Aug. 31,2002,two vans carrying the Spiers and their colleagues were ambushed by separatist guerillas.
Gunfire ripped through the vans for more than 30 minutes,killing two American men,including Rick Spier,and an Indonesian man. Eleven people were seriously wounded,eight of them Americans,including a 6-year-old girl.
After the attack,the FBI started what became a fruitless investigation. Witnesses had to be accompanied by Indonesian soldiers,and no evidence could be taken back to the U.S. for analysis,Spier said.
“So I decided I had to come to Washington,” she said.
She began campaigning to halt military funding for Indonesia until an investigation into the murders could begin. She visited senators,House members and Paul D. Wolfowitz, then deputy defense secretary.
“This was not about us versus them,” Spier said. “This was about murder.”
Her visit to Allard's office Tuesday marks her 21st visit to the Capitol.
Allard and Sen. Russ Feingold,D-Wis.,with help from others,amended a 2004 appropriations bill to freeze $400,000 for Indonesian military training programs. It passed unanimously.
A similar bill passed in the House after Spier contacted Rep. Joel Hefley,R-Colo. President Bush signed the bill into law.
Allard said Spier's goal of putting the separatists on trail for murder was a long shot at first. But when she presented an Indonesian police report that suggested the Indonesian military's involvement,the senator began helping her.
“We were skeptical if we could get this moving,” he said,sitting next to Spier in his office. “The outcome was better than what we though originally.”
The funds to Indonesia's military were reinstated in February 2005,once a U.S. grand jury issued indictments for the murderers – proving to the State Department that Indonesia complied with the FBI's investigation. The FBI is still investigating,and more indictments are possible,Spier said.
In January 2006,the Indonesian government arrested and indicted 12 men for the murders of the two Americans and one Indonesian. Seven ultimately stood trail,including Wamang.
Spier spent four months in Indonesia attending the trials.
The Indonesian government deserves credit for complying with the FBI,Spier said. She originally fought to have to have the now-convicted killer tried in U.S. courts. But she said it worked out best for both countries.
“I look upon this as a catalyst for reform,” she said of Indonesian courts.
Spier is now working on a master's degree in global studies at the University of Denver. After her 20-year marriage ended in tragedy,she said she is done with teaching.
“For me it would be too sad to go back into the classroom without him,” she said.