Sunday, August 22, 2010

Six Years After Activist’s Murder on a Garuda fligt, Justice is Yet to be Served

Critics allege that former State Intelligence Agency deputy director Muchdi Purwopranjono was behind the murder of respected human rights activist Munir Said Thalib six years ago.

The government is not serious enough in its attempt to bring to justice those behind the death of Munir Said Thalib, critics said ahead of the sixth anniversary of the murder of the leading human rights activist.

Munir was poisoned with arsenic on a Garuda flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam on Sept. 7, 2004. An off-duty pilot on board that flight, Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, was later convicted of the murder and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

However, rights groups allege that other perpetrators, including higher-ups in the country’s intelligence community, should also be held liable for the conspiracy.

The key suspect in the case, former State Intelligence Agency (BIN) deputy director Muchdi Purwopranjono, was acquitted of all charges in the murder case by the South Jakarta District Court in December 2008, despite incriminating phone records showing he had held more than 40 conversations with Pollycarpus prior to the activist’s death.

Muchdi’s trial was also marred by controversy when a slew of witnesses who had previously implicated him in the murder conspiracy recanted their testimonies.

Critics allege that Muchdi, a former commander of the Army’s notorious Special Forces (Kopassus), orchestrated the murder as revenge for Munir’s role in his ouster as Kopassus chief in 1998. Muchdi’s dismissal is widely attributed to Munir’s fierce criticism of the alleged kidnapping of activists by the elite unit.

Meanwhile, the Committee of Solidarity Action for Munir (Kasum) over the weekend called for Rohainil Aini, a former Garuda secretary who was sentenced to a year in prison for assisting Pollycarpus, to finally be jailed.

Rohainil was previously acquitted of all charges by the Central Jakarta District Court, but in 2009 the Supreme Court quashed that verdict and handed her a one-year jail sentence. However, she has never seen the inside of a cell due to a technicality.

“The Attorney General’s Office should bring her to justice and finally lock her up,” Kasum program coordinator Andi Panca Kurniawan said.

“For more than a year and a half she’s been allowed to remain free, and whenever we ask the AGO why, they tell us that they can’t jail her until they get an official copy of the ruling from the Supreme Court,” Panca said, adding that this showed that the AGO was not taking the case seriously.

“It’s almost as though they’re stalling until the public has forgotten all about Munir’s case.”

Munir, who started out as a legal aid advocate in Surabaya, East Java, rose to prominence by challenging the military’s human rights record, accusing it of gross violations in the restive provinces of East Timor, Aceh and Papua, and of running illegal logging operations in those provinces.

Kasum has planned a number of events to commemorate Munir, most importantly the Munir Memorial Lecture at Brawijaya University in Malang, East Java, on Sept. 29. Farouk Arnaz |for the Jakarta Globe

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