US Demands Full Probe into Munir Murder

WASHINGTON ~ The United States will press for a no-holds-barred probe into the murder of respected human rights activist Munir Said Thalib, the State Department has said.

It made the statement after Munir’s widow Suciwati held talks last Thursday with acting deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian affairs Scot Marciel about the murder case.

Details of the case so far suggest a cover-up and links to Indonesia’s powerful national intelligence agency, rights groups said.

Marciel assured Munir’s widow “that the US government would continue to press for a full and effective investigation into her husband’s murder regardless of where that investigation may lead,” a State Department official said.

Suciwati also discussed her husband’s case with the department’s bureau of democracy, human rights and labor, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Suciwati, herself a labor activist, told a Congressional meeting last week that an efficient resolution of her husband’s case was “crucial to protect other human rights defenders whose lives could also be under threat.”

Munir was 38 when he was killed after his drink was found laced with arsenic on a Garuda Indonesia flight from Singapore to Amsterdam in September 2004.

A Garuda pilot with links to BIN, the national intelligence agency, was jailed for 14 years for the murder but the Supreme Court overturned his conviction early this month despite overwhelming evidence, rights groups said.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has refused to publish the final report and recommendations of his fact-finding team set up to investigate the murder despite a deluge of requests to do so, including from 68 US lawmakers who wrote to him last year expressing concern over the case.

Senior Democratic lawmaker Tom Lantos, co-founder and co-chairman of the US Congressional Human Rights Caucus, is “very concerned about this issue,” his spokeswoman Lynne Weil said.

“He wants to see that report, as do the other members of Congress who voiced their opinion a year ago, and these questions should not go unanswered,” Weil said.

“You can expect to see Congressional follow-up before the end of the year,” she said.

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