Human Rights First Press
For Immediate Release: September 6, 2007
Contact: Henry Griggs, 202-321-8282
On Anniversary of Activist’s Death,
New Evidence Demands Investigation
Human Rights First: New Findings “Should be a
Starting Point, Not the Final Word”
On the third anniversary of the fatal poisoning
of leading Indonesian human rights lawyer Munir,
Human Rights First called on the Indonesian
government to immediately and fully investigate
all of those implicated in the planning and execution of the murder.
Munir, a prominent critic of the state’s
involvement in human rights violations, died on
September 7, 2004, on a flight to the Netherlands
after being poisoned with arsenic.
An off-duty co-pilot named Pollycarpus Budihari
Priyanto was found guilty, but his murder
conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court in
October 2006. Hearings are now underway to
determine whether the Supreme Court will review
their decision. The hearings have introduced new
evidence that former senior intelligence
officials may have been involved in the murder.
However, at least one piece of evidence has
disappeared and several prosecution witnesses
changed their testimony on the stand,
underscoring the need for a systematic investigation apart from the
“The current hearings are important, but are
limited only to uncovering the truth about one
man’s role in Munir’s death,” said Maureen
Byrnes, Executive Director of Human Rights First.
“There is an urgent need for a new effort by
police and prosecutors to vigorously investigate
all of those implicated by the evidence.”
President Yudhoyono’s spokesperson recently
affirmed that even if senior officials are found
to have played a role in the murder, “whoever is
involved must be punished.” President Yudhoyono
has previously called the Munir case a test for
Indonesia, although he has never released the
report of the fact-finding team he created.
“We welcome the pledge by President Yudhoyono’s
office that the guilty will be punished, whatever
their position,” said Byrnes. “Now is the time
for concrete steps to make that pledge a reality.
The president must ensure an investigation that
takes the new evidence as a starting point, not the final word.”
If police and prosecutors are unwilling or unable
to investigate former senior officials, Byrnes
said, the president should appoint an independent
commission with a robust mandate to follow the
evidence wherever it leads. She added that such
an investigation can put rumors to rest,
encourage reform of the intelligence apparatus,
and identify those responsible for the public murder of a leading figure.
In 2005 a presidential fact-finding team linked
the copilot to senior intelligence officials
through phone records. However, the officials
refused to meet with the team and there is no
evidence that police ever adequately questioned them.
To prepare for the current case review request,
police took statements from new witnesses,
including one man who says he was an intelligence
agent once tasked with killing Munir. He was one
of two witnesses who changed their testimony at
trial, raising questions about possible
intimidation. The hearings also revealed that the
head of the state airline Garuda, Indra Setiawan,
had received a letter from the State Intelligence
Agency ordering him to assign Pollycarpus as an
aviation security officer, enabling him to join Munir’s flight.
The letter was stolen from the executive’s car in
late 2004. (Setiawan and a colleague will soon
face trial in connection with the murder).
In October 2006, Human Rights First gave its
annual human rights awards to Munir’s widow,
Suciwati, on her own and her late husband’s behalf.
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