An Indonesian palm oil official has been arrested for ordering the killing of two activist journalists who were mediating a land dispute between his company and local residents, police said on Saturday. .
The body of Maraden Sianipar was found last week in a ditch near a palm grove in Labuhan Batu, North Sumatra Province.
The police found the remains of his colleague, Maratua Siregar, in the same area a day later. Both had been stabbed several times.
On Saturday, authorities in North Sumatra announced that they arrested businessman Wibharry Padmoasmolo for allegedly leading the plot by paying nearly $ 3,000 to four men to commit the murders.
Padmoasmolo is a company that produces palm oil – a widely used vegetable oil that is found in all areas, chocolate soap – that was in dispute with locals for which both victims pleaded said the police.
The killings aimed to end the involvement of the two men, according to the authorities, who added that Padmoasmolo had denied ownership of the company involved.
In all, five people were arrested as part of the assassination plot and the police said it was still looking for several suspects still on the run.
"We are looking for all three, while the other five suspects have been arrested for re-examination," said North Sumatra Police Chief Agus Andrianto.
Victims Sianipar and Maratua worked together for a local online news portal before becoming a freelancer in 2017.
A friend of Siregar said that they were recently known for their activism in land disputes – a common source of conflict in the resource-rich Southeast Asian archipelago.
The friend said that Siregar was active in an organization that defends the interests of residents in the conflict.
Many cases of violence against journalists in Indonesia are unsolved, according to the Independent Journalists Alliance, which has reported at least two dozen cases this year alone.
Indonesia ranks 124 out of 180 countries in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders.