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Indonesians accused in murder of Americans

JAKARTA, Indonesia &

Seven men accused of killing two American teachers at a U.S.-owned gold mine in Papua province refused to enter a plea Tuesday as their trial wrapped up because they believed the proceedings were unfair, their lawyer said.

Because no plea was entered, Judge Andriani Nurdin said she would issue a verdict Nov. 7.

The defendants have remained silent throughout the course of their five-month trial and regularly walked out in protest.

Prosecutors alleged the men &

all indigenous Papuans &

were members of a small rebel army fighting for a separate state in the resource-rich province.

They are accused of shooting Rickey Lynn Spier, 44, of Littleton, Colorado, and Leon Edwin Burgon, 71, of Sun River, Ore., in 2002 as their car headed down a road toward the mine owned by Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold Mine Inc.

Johnson Panjaitan, a lawyer for the defendants, said his clients refused to enter the plea because they had routinely been denied access to attorneys and that the judges were biased against them.

"They do not believe the trial was fair," Panjaitan said.

Officials at the Central Jakarta District Court were not immediately available for comment.

The hearing in the heavily guarded court was interrupted several times by rowdy Papuan protesters.

Prosecutors have demanded that the alleged ringleader &

Antonius Wamang &

serve 20 years in prison and that the others serve eight to 15 years.

Wamang, who was indicted by a U.S. grand jury in 2004 for the murders, admitted to shooting at the teachers' convoy, saying he believed it was carrying soldiers paid by the New Orleans-based company to guard the mine, Panjaitan said.

Wamang also acknowledged being a member of the Papuan separatist movement, which has long seen the mine as a symbol of Jakarta-rule over the province, the lawyer said.

But the other six, accused of providing logistics for the attack, maintain they were ordinary civilians, he said.

Some Papuan activists have alleged that the Indonesian army, which has a history of rights abuses in the province, ordered the 2002 attack to make sure Freeport would continue to pay soldiers to protect the mine.

The military has denied that and the FBI, which took part in the arrests of the seven men last year, found no evidence backing up those suspicions.