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December 20, 2005

Conviction in Indonesian Murder Trial is Just

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NEW YORK - Human Rights First welcomed the conviction of the man charged with poisoning human rights hero Munir Said Thalib, but criticized the Indonesian government's failure to identify and prosecute others implicated in the crime. On Tuesday, December 20, Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto was convicted and sentenced to 14 years in prison, less than the life sentence requested by prosecutors.

"This conviction is only the first step in the search for justice for Munir," said Neil Hicks, Director of International Programs. "Unless the Indonesian government opens a new investigation into the role of intelligence officials in Munir's murder, the verdict will be the last step as well."

Munir fell ill and died while flying to the Netherlands to continue his studies in September 2004. An autopsy revealed a lethal dose of arsenic in his system, most likely ingested on the flight from Jakarta to Singapore. The resulting outcry led President Yudhoyono to create a fact-finding team, but senior intelligence officials failed to cooperate. The team found evidence implicating several officials at the State Intelligence Agency (known as BIN in its Indonesian acronym), but the government refused to release the team's report. Prosecutors never introduced evidence that Priyanto was a BIN agent in court or even referred to the fact-finding team's report. Two members of the team have even been summoned by police for questioning on defamation charges, an increasingly common form of harassment.

Although the official fact-finding team recommended a new commission with a robust mandate, the government left the investigation to the police department. This effort has been hampered by the reassignment of its director and most staff, effectively ending the investigation.

"A guilty verdict for a low-level operative does not mean that justice has been served," said Hicks. "The fact that former intelligence officials cannot even be effectively investigated, let alone prosecuted, underscores that in today's Indonesia some people are above the law."

The Munir case has attracted significant international attention. A bipartisan group of 68 members of the United States House of Representatives recently sent a letter to the Indonesian president urging action on the case. In June, Munir's wife, Suciwati, was accompanied by Human Rights First in meetings with State Department officials in Washington, D.C. In September, Human Rights First released a White Paper on the case, available at:

/defenders/
hrd_indonesia/letters/munir-white-paper-090605.pdf