In a conference room of the national police headquarters here, Patsy Spier last week once again relived the attack that robbed her of her husband on a Saturday afternoon in 2002 in remote Papua Province.
In more than six hours of questioning by Indonesian police investigators, she described how attackers fired into the convoy carrying her, her husband and eight other Americans up a mountain road inside the concession of Freeport-McMoRan, an American mining company. Then she repeated her pitch for justice.
''I emphasized that whoever carried this out knew what they were doing,'' Mrs. Spier said in an interview last week, when she returned to Jakarta at the time of a breakthrough in the case with the detention of eight suspects. ''It wasn't just a few minutes, it wasn't just a gun getting away, it was repeated shots. They were going to kill someone that day.''
The ambush killed her husband, Rickey Lynn Spier, another American teacher, Edwin Burgon, and an Indonesian teacher, Bambang Riwanto, and snarled efforts by the Bush administration to strengthen military relations with Indonesia. It also raised questions about payments by Freeport, based in New Orleans, to the Indonesian Army, which patrolled the road, and whose soldiers are suspected by some of involvement. Not least, the case placed Mrs. Spier, who will turn 48 Monday, at the center of strained United States relations with Indonesia over the incident, making her an accidental ambassador for justice on a nearly four-year quest to untangle who was behind the killings.
In Washington, Mrs. Spier's mettle -- she has made 17 trips from her home in Colorado -- won her access to high officials, including John D. Ashcroft, during his tenure as attorney general. In Jakarta last week, Mrs. Spier, a Peace Corps volunteer in Sierra Leone who later traveled from Bolivia to Sudan to teach with her husband, met with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Widows with horrific stories of violence abroad are not unusual in Washington. But Mrs. Spier has struck a chord. She said she tracked down every lead to seek a full investigation of the case, which at times seemed at risk of dying, amid resistance by Indonesia.
Even today, the pursuit of the connections the case might have with Indonesia's military is likely to clash with the warming of military ties between the Bush administration and Indonesia in the last 18 months.
''If Patsy hadn't stuck with it, I'm not at all sure we'd be where we are today,'' Matthew P. Daley, a former deputy assistant secretary of state and one of the first people she called on, said last week.
This month, the F.B.I. arranged for the surrender in Papua of 12 men in the killings, including Anthonius Wamang, a member of a Papuan separatist group, who was indicted by a federal grand jury in Washington in June 2004.
Four of the men were freed, and the others are in custody in Jakarta. They are expected to be charged, lawyers in the case said. One of the suspects is 14, another 15, a list provided by a Papuan human rights group says. All are supporters of the Papuan separatist movement, a police investigator said.
The arrests and the promise by the Indonesians of a fair trial still leave unanswered who planned the attacks, what the motives were and whether Indonesian soldiers were involved, Mrs. Spier said. To get those answers, she said she had asked Mr. Yudhoyono to allow the F.B.I. to continue in the case and to question the suspects to ensure ''a credible investigation.'' The president ''gave his commitment,'' she said, although the national police chief, Gen. Sutanto, said last week that the F.B.I.'s role was over.
''The police involved in the investigation still believe the military was involved,'' said an Indonesian investigator who gave The New York Times official transcripts of witness interviews. ''But this involves relations between two countries. It will be difficult for the police to dare to say the military was involved.''
The evidence of military involvement is largely circumstantial. Mr. Wamang was close to Indonesian military units in Papua, and was paid by the military for trips to Jakarta, the police investigator said.
After his capture, Mr. Wamang told the police he got the bullets from a senior Indonesian soldier, his lawyer, Albert Rumbekwan, said. The F.B.I. said in a report to a Congressional panel that the assailants used the type of automatic rifles used by the military.
The ambush occurred between military checkpoints that are only five miles apart. The road falls away at almost an 80-degree angle into a mountainous valley, making it almost impossible for the attackers to have gotten into position without the acquiescence of soldiers on the road, the Indonesian police investigator said, a conclusion shared by Mrs. Spier and American investigators.
The soldiers on the road did not respond to the attack for more than 30 minutes, according to Mrs. Spier and the F.B.I. investigation. Soldiers came to the rescue after a Freeport executive, Andrew J. Neale, stumbled across the shooting as he was driving down the road and went to the military post for help. He said he had heard ''continuous shooting,'' an official transcript of his questioning by Indonesian police says.
The ambush angered Congress and delayed the renewal of American money for military training for Indonesia for more than two years.
But over the objections of some members of Congress, the Bush administration resumed the training in February 2005 after the indictment of Mr. Wamang. The training had been suspended in 1992 after Indonesian security forces massacred civilians in East Timor in 1991.
In November, the administration waived curbs on lethal arms sales, saying that Indonesia was ''a voice of moderation in the Islamic world'' and that the F.B.I. had received renewed cooperation in the case.
The preliminary Indonesian police report suggested that a motivation for the attack was a threat by Freeport, which runs the world's largest gold mine in Papua, to cut its payments to Indonesian soldiers. Freeport was giving military officers such benefits as airline tickets and cash, company documents provided to The New York Times show.
In 1998 through 2004, the company gave individual officers and units more than $20 million in cash and benefits, the documents show.
Mr. Spier, the two other teachers who were killed and Mrs. Spier, who was shot in the rib and suffered shrapnel wounds to her back and a kidney, worked at the school run by Freeport for the children of its employees. If the shootings were motivated by the soldiers wanting more money from Freeport, Mrs. Spier, said she would seek to change laws on corporate behavior abroad.
Freeport says that all of the payments were within American and Indonesian laws.
''If the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act needs to be changed, I want to change it,'' she said.
She said she expected to attend the trial in Jakarta, though a date is uncertain. If convicted, the suspects could face the death penalty. ''There's a death penalty here,'' she said. ''They knew what they were doing. They chose to kill. The consequences are there.''
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