For Immediate Release: January 25, 2008
NEW YORK-The Indonesian Supreme Court’s reinstatement of a guilty verdict in the 2004 murder of human rights activist Munir is a welcome development that should open the door to prosecuting the masterminds behind this crime, said Human Rights First, a New York-based international human rights organization.
“Another obstacle has been removed in the effort to obtain justice for Munir,” said Matt Easton, Director of the Human Rights Defenders Program at Human Rights First. “With the killer returning to jail and the revelation of fresh evidence linking him to intelligence officials, it is high time for police and prosecutors to focus on the intellectual authors.”
In the three years since Munir’s fatal poisoning en route to Amsterdam, only one person has been convicted. A co-pilot for the state airline named Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto was found guilty of premeditated murder. However, his murder conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court in October 2006 and he was soon released. Today, the Supreme Court announced the reinstatement of this murder conviction and a 20-year prison sentence. The five-judge panel voted unanimously, citing new evidence and noting a political motive for the murder.
The long-awaited decision is important to the case in two ways. First, officially establishing Priyanto’s guilt creates a firmer evidentiary basis for conviction of two other airline officials currently on trial as accessories to the crime.
Second, and more importantly, the conviction of Priyanto removes a possible obstacle to charging additional suspects, up to and including senior intelligence officials. Law enforcement officials had used the pending Supreme Court decision as a justification to hold off on charging new suspects.
“The Indonesian president has said that the Munir investigation is a test case for how much the nation has changed,” said Easton. “The Supreme Court decision is certainly a step in the right direction, but now comes the real test: the government must complete a thorough investigation into who ordered an off-duty airline pilot to kill Munir.”
The decision was handed down as new evidence emerges linking Priyanto to the state intelligence agency. At the time of the murder there were dozens of calls between the copilot and the phone of a senior intelligence official named Muchdi Purwopranjono. Purwopranjono denies knowing Priyanto, but prosecutors in the ongoing trials recently announced that another intelligence agent told the police that he was a go-between between the two men.
The intelligence agent, Budi Santoso, never appeared at the trials, and has apparently been reassigned to a new position overseas. It is vital that Santoso be questioned under oath in any new proceedings.