A man suspected of stealing cell phones was tortured and threatened with having a live snake stuffed in his mouth and down his pants during a police interrogation in Indonesia, according to a shocking video that's prompted authorities in the country to apologize -- but also try to justify the tactic.
Video of the incident that circulated online over the weekend shows a man with a snake draped around his neck as officers taunt him, ordering him to admit to the theft or face having the reptile put in his mouth or his pants.
The man is seen with his hands tied behind his back and yelling as the snake is pushed toward his face by an officer. He's also seen writhing on the ground as he's asked by an officer, “How many times have you stolen mobile phones?”
The suspect later responds: “Only two times.”
Police in Indonesia’s easternmost Papua region apologized -- but also attempted to justify the officers’ actions by saying the snake was not venomous and that they hadn’t resorted to beating the man.
Police indicated the incident with the alleged thief happened recently, during a crackdown on petty crime in Jayawijaya district.
Jayawijaya police chief Tonny Ananda Swadaya said in a statement the officers had been disciplined by being given ethics training and moved to other locations.
Papua police spokesman Ahmad Musthofa Kamal said the case was being investigated by the internal affairs unit.
"We apologize for the incident," Kamal told The Associated Press. "Institutionally we do not recognize such an unprofessional method of interrogation, and we guarantee that such an inhuman method will not happen again in the future."
Human rights lawyer Veronica Koman, who circulated the video, said that the interrogation methods were torture and violated police policies as well as several laws.
The events are likely to further inflame tensions in the region where an insurgency has simmered since the early 1960s when Indonesia took control of the western half of the island of New Guinea, formerly a Dutch colony.
Police and military have carried out a sweeping crackdown on independence supporters after rebel fighters in December killed 19 people working on a construction site for the trans-Papua highway.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.