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Rights advocates deplore murder acquittal in Indonesia JAKARTA - The acquittal of an Indonesian pilot convicted in the murder of one of the country's most respected human-rights advocates has unleashed a storm of protest from critics of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his government. The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that there was insufficient evidence to support a lower court's verdict that the pilot, Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, had murdered Munir Said Thalib, a human-rights lawyer who investigated abuses by the Indonesian military.

Munir, 38, died from arsenic poisoning when he flew on the national airline, Garuda, from Jakarta to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in 2004. Pollycarpus, a pilot with Garuda, was a passenger in business class during the first leg of the flight, from Jakarta to Singapore, and had arranged an upgrade for Munir, so that they sat in the same cabin for 90 minutes. An autopsy found that Munir had swallowed three times more arsenic than his body could tolerate.

The criticisms of the government's handling of the case were directed in an unusually personal way at Yudhoyono, who has been mentioned among the news media here as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize because of his work promoting a peace accord between the Indonesian Army and separatists in Aceh province. Yudhoyono, the first directly elected president of Indonesia since the fall of ex-President Suharto, a dictator, in 1998, took office two years ago.

But in a scathing editorial titled "Forget the Nobel, Remember Munir," The Jakarta Post wrote Friday that there was still little political will to uphold human rights here. The paper said the acquittal followed a pattern that included the exoneration of all the senior Indonesian military officers accused of crimes against humanity in East Timor in 1999. "Our politicians posture and make the right noises in international forums, often to applause, while at home activists work tirelessly to campaign for these rights," the paper said. "And sometimes they are murdered on the job."

Yudhoyono said the investigation of Munir's death was "a test case for whether Indonesia has changed." After the acquittal, the president's spokesman said that Yudhoyono had ordered the police to strengthen their investigation. But Asmara Nababan, a member of a fact-finding commission into the case, described the spokesman's reaction as too little, too late.

Critics said little effort had been made to uncover what the lower court in its verdict had called a conspiracy to kill Munir. The fact-finding commission found that more than two dozen calls had been made from Pollycarpus' cellphone before and after the death of Munir to the phone of Maj. Gen. Muchdi Purwoprajoyo, a deputy director of the State Intelligence Agency in 2004.


Related blog entries (category 'Crime') Related blog entries (category 'Crime'):
05 October 2006 · Pilot acquitted in activist murder
20 December 2005 · Indonesia pilot jailed for murder of activist
01 December 2005 · Prosecutor demands life sentence in Munir case
08 September 2005 · A year later, Munirís killers evade justice
12 August 2005 · Indonesia arrests new suspect over murder of rights activist


Posted in Crime @ 09 October 2006 02:39 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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