Ex-Garuda Executive Implicates BIN in Munir Murder

JAKARTA ~ A former senior executive of Garuda Indonesia has implicated the powerful state intelligence agency in the 2004 murder of the country’s most prominent rights activist.

Munir Said Thalib was poisoned on a flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam in September 2004. He had made many enemies during and after the rule of dictator Suharto, which ended in 1998.

An off-duty pilot with Garuda Indonesia, Pollycarpus Priyanto, was sentenced to 14 years for slipping arsenic into Munir’s food or drink during the fateful flight, but his conviction was quashed by the Supreme Court last year.

Former Garuda director Indra Setiawan, who is in custody and expected to be charged as an accessory to murder, told a Jakarta court on Wednesday that the intelligence agency asked him to assign Priyanto to Munir’s flight.

“It is a usual thing. We often get letters from (government) institutions such as the Transport Ministry, the Finance Ministry, requesting that a Garuda pilot be included in a team,” he told the court.

Setiawan said the letter, marked “secret,” was sent in April or May 2004. He added that Priyanto’s position as a corporate security officer had made the demand a fair one.

The actual letter from the intelligence agency (BIN) was taken from Setiawan’s car in December 2004, but prosecutors seeking a review of Priyanto’s case say his testimony is enough to prove the pilot’s link to BIN.

Priyanto and BIN bosses have shrugged off previous allegations of a link, including records that the pilot’s phone had made some 41 calls to a BIN officer around the time of Munir’s death.

The court heard a recording of what prosecutors said was a telephone conversation between Priyanto and Setiawan, in which a man that sounded like Priyanto said many officials were “on our side.”

“Ninety percent of government officials are on our side, and that is why they are silent,” said the man believed by prosecutors to be Priyanto.

“Mr. Indra, you should not be worried … This has to be done so that SBY doesn’t get prodded by non-governmental organizations,” he said, referring to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono by his initials.

During Wednesday’s hearing, a junior state intelligence agent, Raden Mohammad Patma Anwar, said he was not ordered by a superior to kill Munir, recanting his earlier testimony.

Anwar however told the court that he was assigned to monitor Munir’s activities, passing as a journalist to gain access to the activist’s meetings and whereabouts.

Priyanto’s lawyers have disputed the legality of the bid by prosecutors to reopen his case.

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