Subject: Radio Australia Transcript: Indonesian court considers reopening Munir case

Radio Australia Program: PM September 21, 2007 -transcript-

Indonesian court considers reopening Munir case

Reporter: Geoff Thompson

MARK COLVIN: This week saw the conclusion in Jakarta of the last legal bid to find justice in a case which even the President has called a test of Indonesia's history.

Three years ago this month, Indonesia's most prominent human rights activist, Munir Thalib, died an agonising death from arsenic poisoning aboard a Garuda flight to Amsterdam.

A former Garuda pilot, Pollycarpus Priyanto, was convicted of the murder in 2005, but only until Indonesia's Supreme Court quashed his conviction last year.

That same court is now deciding whether the case should be reopened amid a murky flood of evidence suggesting the direct involvement of Indonesia 's State Intelligence Agency.

From Jakarta, Indonesia Correspondent Geoff Thompson.

(Sound of protester talking over loudspeaker)

GEOFF THOMPSON: Holding high large banners bearing the silhouetted face of Munir Said Thalib, demonstrators outside the offices of Indonesia's State Intelligence Agency mark the three-year anniversary of his murder this month.

On the 7th of September 2004, Indonesia's staunchest critic of military human rights abuses, known to everyone as just Munir, died an excruciating death by arsenic poisoning while mid-air aboard a Garuda jet on its way from Jakarta via Singapore to Amsterdam.

Soon after the involvement of Indonesia's State Intelligence Agency was suspected, while all the evidence of witnesses pointed to Munir being given a drink with the poison in it while he was transiting through Singapore's Changi Airport.

Also on the flight to Singapore was the former Garuda pilot Pollycarpus Priyanto, who, witnesses say, was seen sharing a drink with Munir at an airport cafe.

In December of 2005, Priyanto was found guilty of Munir's murder and was sentenced to 14 years prison. Last October, Indonesia's Supreme Court quashed that decision and found him guilty only of forging a letter which, strangely, authorised him being on Munir's flight as an aviation security officer.

This week in Jakarta saw the end of submissions for a special appeal, in an attempt to have the case against Priyanto reopened. No one appreciates the poignancy of this test of democratic Indonesia's justice system and the country's culture of impunity, more than Munir's widow, Suciwati.

SUCIWATI (translated): When President Yudhoyono first heard about this case, he said that this is a test of our history, so it's a matter of our nation's credibility.

Left unresolved, it puts our country's credibility at stake.

(Sound of police phone recording)

GEOFF THOMPSON: Some striking new police evidence was produced in court during the hearings for this last-ditch attempt to get the case against Pollycarpus Priyanto reopened.

Agents for BIN (Badan Intelijen Negara), the Indonesian acronym for the country's State Intelligence Agency, were called and said they had been ordered to kill Munir, even with magic spells.

But more alarming for Indonesian democracy was a recorded telephone conversation between Pollycarpus Priyanto and Indra Setiawan, a former Garuda chief who is now in police custody after he admitted to receiving a letter from BIN asking him to assign Priyanto as a security officer aboard Garuda flights two months before Munir was murdered.

In the recorded conversation, Pollycarpus Priyanto is heard telling Indra Setiawan not to worry, because Indonesia's Attorney General and Supreme Court Chief Justice were both "our men" he said.

The other murky bit of evidence relates to phone records showing that Pollycarpus Priyanto shared a total of 41 phone calls with the former Kopassus commander and BIN Deputy Director known as Muchdi. Apparently above the law, he has never appeared in court.

Even Adnan Wirawan, the lawyer representing Pollycarpus Priyanto, struggles to sound convinced of his client's complete innocence.

ADNAN WIRAWAN: I would not have a black and white reply to that.

GEOFF THOMPSON: So, essentially, your legal position is not that Pollycarpus Priyanto is necessarily innocent but that he simply cannot be tried again for the same crime of which he was acquitted?

ADNAN WIRAWAN: Yes.

GEOFF THOMPSON: It's now again up to the Supreme Court, the very court which quashed Priyanto's murder conviction for insufficient evidence, to decide whether there is still a case to answer.

Rafendi Djamin is Coordinator of Indonesia's NGO coalition called the Human Rights Watch Group.

RAFENDI DJAMIN: It is something which is very serious concern. Why this case is becoming so crucial, it has something to do with where this Indonesian politics and democracy is going ahead.

GEOFF THOMPSON: It's also a crucial of test of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's Presidency. He came to power in late 2004 with a promise to solve the case - a promise now directly challenged by the impunity Indonesia's military and intelligence agencies continue to enjoy.

In Jakarta, this is Geoff Thompson for PM.

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