JAKARTA, Aug 15, 2007 (AFP) – Indonesian state prosecutors have compiled an array of fresh evidence that implicates the powerful state intelligence agency in the murder of a rights activist, according to a document obtained by AFP.
Munir Said Thalib, Indonesia’s most prominent rights activist, was poisoned as he travelled from Jakarta to Amsterdam in September 2004.
He had made many enemies during the rule of dictator Suharto, and after his 1998 downfall.
In a plot worthy of a spy thriller, an off-duty pilot from the state-run airline Garuda Indonesia, who is accused of links to Indonesia’s intelligence agency BIN, was convicted of slipping a lethal dose of arsenic into Munir’s food or drink during his flight.
But in a move sparking international outrage, the Supreme Court last year overturned the verdict against Pollycarpus Priyanto, citing insufficient evidence.
A charge that the pilot used a falsified document to board the same Garuda flight as Munir, however, was upheld and he was jailed for two years, although he walked free shortly afterwards.
Now, amid escalating international pressure to find the culprits, state prosecutors are requesting a so-called judicial case review. This would see the Supreme Court reconsider its own decision, based on an admission of fresh evidence or any errors or consistencies in its verdict.
A dossier detailing the evidence is expected to be submitted to a lower court on Thursday, which will determine whether the request is admissible.
If the review goes ahead, the Supreme Court will hear testimony from a series of new witnesses that again points the finger at the pilot, Priyanto, but also finally links him to BIN, according to the dossier seen by AFP.
Connections between Priyanto and BIN have long been alleged — the pilot made some 41 phone calls, for instance, to a senior BIN official around the time of the murder.
But the new evidence is tighter, said an optimistic Usman Hamid, a human rights worker with Kontras, an organisation founded by Munir, who has also seen the dossier.
In it, prosecutors ask why the Supreme Court, which ruled Priyanto was guilty of using the falsified document, did not insist on finding out why he needed to use it; why he offered to swap his business class seat with Munir, who was in economy; and why he had called Munir, whom he did not know, before the flight.
"This is what should have been looked into during the appeal process — the extent of the correlation between the use of the false document with the death of the victim, Munir," state prosecutors say in the document.
Testimony from five new witnesses is recounted, including that of a junior intelligence agent, Raden Mohammad Patma Anwar, who told investigators that he had been ordered by a superior to kill Munir before presidential elections in October 2004 — a month before his death.
Among a series of potential scenarios plotted for Munir’s death was one involving a paranormal expert casting a bad spell on him.
A colleague of the agent "managed to meet with the paranormal expert, but the hex did not work because Munir had a kris," the document cites the agent as saying. A kris is a traditional sword believed to ward off evil.
The agent also said he had seen Priyanto in the parking lot of the BIN headquarters.
Testimony is also recounted from a musician on board the flight who claims he saw Priyanto deliver a drink to Munir during transit at Singapore’s Changi airport.
"The witness saw Pollycarpus coming from the drinks counter carrying two drinks glasses… The witness saw Munir talking to Pollycarpus while drinking," it says.
A medical doctor says the arsenic that killed the 38-year-old father of two appears to have been administered during the transit period.
As well, former Garuda director Indra Setiawan, who is in custody and is expected to be charged with being an accessory to the murder, recounts that he signed a letter assigning Priyanto to assist the carrier’s corporate security unit following a written demand from a senior BIN officer.
The incriminating BIN letter disappeared along with Setiawan’s bag from his car in December 2004, but his testimony alone would link Priyanto to BIN.
Matt Easton, a senior associate with Human Rights First, a US-based organisation that has followed the case closely, said that a credible review of Priyanto’s case is a first step for Indonesia’s judicial system.
"But police and prosecutors can’t stop there if the Indonesian government is serious about holding those who planned and ordered Munir’s murder accountable," he said in an email.
The fresh evidence has left Kontras’ Hamid optimistic. For him, nothing short of Indonesia’s democracy is at stake.
"I cannot imagine how the Indonesian government, Indonesian democracy, can continue if those individuals remain untouchable in the future," he told AFP.
"Law enforcement is just an illusion if we are not able to solve this case. The evidence is there, the witnesses are there. We have no excuse to get out of this situation."