Spy to Face Trial over Activist’s Murder

JAKARTA ~ A former intelligence agent will face trial over the 2004 poisoning murder of human rights activist Munir Said Thalib, the Attorney General’s Office said this week.

It marks the first time a high-ranking figure in the military establishment will face justice over the murder of the activist, who died from arsenic poisoning on a flight from Singapore to Amsterdam in 2004.

“The case file prepared by police is already complete, meaning the prosecutors’ office will prepare charges to be submitted soon for trial,” said office spokesman Bonaventura Daulat Nainggolan.

Under Indonesian law, the attorney general decides whether or not a suspect should stand trial.

The former senior officer in the State Intelligence Agency (BIN), Muchdi Purwopranjono, will be charged with premeditated murder, which is punishable by death, the spokesman added.

Munir, who died aged 38, was the leader of independent rights watchdog Kontras and a vocal campaigner for victims of military abuses under the 1965-1998 Suharto presidency.

Usman Hamid, the current leader of Kontras, said the decision to go to trial was a milestone for the Indonesian judiciary and democracy in general.

“This is the first time that a former high-ranking military officer will be brought to face a criminal trial and has been held in detention,” he said.

“It’s a positive sign that military impunity is being tackled. We hope the prosecutor’s indictment will be made in the harshest possible way to prevent the same things from happening again.”

Purwopranjono has been in custody since he turned himself in to police on June 19 in Jakarta.

Human rights groups have long accused the intelligence agency of involvement in the murder.

Former Garuda Indonesia pilot Pollycarpus Priyanto was jailed for 20 years earlier this year for poisoning the activist, while Garuda’s ex-boss Indra Setiawan was also jailed for one year as an accomplice.

But rights activists continued to press for the masterminds of the assassination to face justice, saying the pilot and the executive were only pawns in the plot.

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