|Subject: Munir Trial Opens to Chants of
"Killer! Killer! Killer!"
Trial Opens In Case Of Murdered Indonesian Rts Activist
JAKARTA, Aug. 9 (AP)--A pilot for national airline Garuda Indonesia went on trial Tuesday over the alleged murder of a prominent human rights activist who was poisoned last year on a flight to Amsterdam.
Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, 44, has been identified by government-appointed prosecutors as the sole suspect in Munir Said Thalib's murder.
They say the off-duty pilot ordered two flight attendants to put arsenic in Munir's orange juice on Sept. 7, 2004.
Pollycarpus, who has denied the charge, faces the death sentence if convicted.
Munir's supporters chanted "Killer! Killer! Killer!" as Pollycarpus entered the crowded courtroom.
He placed a hand on the lens of a photographer's camera as he passed reporters.
Munir was Indonesia's top human rights investigator, regularly speaking out for justice in the face of intimidation, including death threats.
His murder drew international condemnation.
Tempo August 9-15, 2005
Exercise in Futility?
The Munir case goes to trial this week. With the charges lacking substance, Pollycarpus and company may well go free.
WHAT can we say about the trial of Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto-the man accused of murdering human rights activist Munir-which starts on Tuesday? Misdirected? Concocted? A trial engineered to free the suspects? Even before it has begun, the initial indications are that the court proceedings, which many hope will reveal the identity of Munir's killer and the organization behind him, will not proceed well at all.
The most important factor is the indictment-the fundamental element that will determine the direction of the trial. In the eight-page document, Pollycarpus is charged with murdering Munir on Garuda flight GA974 on the flight from Jakarta to Singapore on September 6, 2004. On that day, Munir was traveling to the Netherlands to continue his studies. Working with a number of Garuda crewmembers who are also suspects, Pollycarpus allegedly put arsenic into Munir's orange juice. The human rights activist died a few hours before it landed in Amsterdam.
But in the charge, Pollycarpus' motive for killing Munir is unclear. He is described as a man relentlessly striving to uphold the unity of the Republic of Indonesia. He saw Munir as a pro-democracy activist with a habit of criticizing the government and thus disrupting its task. Pollycarpus' defense team will have no problem breaking down this line of argument. They will say, "In that case, do the veterans from the war of independence, who bravely defended Indonesian independence, also have a motive to kill Munir?" Even at this point, there is a strong possibility that Pollycarpus will go free, not only because he will be proven not guilty, but because the charges are baseless. In other words there is absolutely no case.
Then there is the way the prosecution has developed its argument to prove Pollycarpus' guilt. After offering Munir the chance to move from economy to business class, Pollycarpus is said to have put the arsenic into Munir's orange juice. Flight attendant Yeti Susimiarti, now a suspect, offered him both the juice and a glass of wine, knowing that the activist did not drink alcohol. Munir chose and drank the poisoned orange juice while Pollycarpus allegedly walked back and forth nearby to keep an eye on what was happening.
But all the charges are based on thin air. Pollycarpus, Yeti, and a third suspect have never confessed to conspiring to murder Munir. There is no evidence, no documentation. At the trial, after the suspects deny the prosecutor's charges, they are all likely to be released. The conclusions of the fact-finding team set up by the president, which worked on the case for six months, will largely be ignored.
In fact, the indictment does not mention the involvement of the people behind Pollycarpus. The telephone call he made to an intelligence official is not discussed at all. The Indonesian intelligence agency mentioned repeatedly in the fact-finding team's recommendations and in the report of Pollycarpus' interrogation seems to have been swallowed up by the earth.
There is no other way: the court must reject the prosecutor's charges and postpone the trial. Meanwhile, the president, through the attorney general, must pressure the police to work more seriously. They must also be strongly reminded not to come up with useless evidence, which merely provides a reason for the prosecution to come up with perfunctory charges.
As President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has said, there is a lot at stake in the Munir case. We must all hope that the court proceedings are not derailed. If that becomes the case, then it will only serve to make us all even more disillusioned.
Tempo August 9-15, 2005
Destined to Crash?
Trial begins over murder suspect Pollycarpus this week at the Central Jakarta District Court. But is the prosecution's case against Priyanto too weak?
PRIYANTO scrutinized the eight-page indictment before handing over to his lawyers, commenting "this indictment is bizarre." Last Wednesday, attorneys M. Assegaf and Wirawan Adnan, visited Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto at the National Police Headquarters, where he has been detained since March 19. Pollycarpus has been reportedly reading and playing sport with other inmates while in police custody.
Pollycarpus claims that the allegations contained in the prosecutor's indictment are false. "How can I be accused of plotting the murder with Yeti Susmiarti and Oedi Irianto? I am the victim here," Pollycarpus reportedly said, according to his lawyer, Wirawan Adnan.
Trial over Pollycarpus is due to commence this Tuesday at the Central Jakarta District Court, chaired by Justice Tjitut Sutiarso. Pollycarpus is facing charges of murdering Munir, Chairman of Kontras and Executive Director of Imparsial, two human rights organizations.
In his indictment, the prosecutor said that Pollycarpus has been involved in activities linked to upholding the unity of the Indonesian Republic. According to the prosecutor, Pollycarpus objected to Munir's open criticism of the government, which he believed disturbed the smooth governing of the nation. The indictment further stated that Pollycarpus had been spying on Munir and had decided to take action against the former Indonesian Legal Aid director after discovering that he was leaving for Holland.
Just two days prior to Munir's departure for Holland, Pollycarpus reportedly contacted him on his mobile phone. According to the prosecutor, Pollycarpus managed to book himself onto the same flight as Munir.
Pollycarpus, a Garuda pilot, was originally scheduled to fly to Peking on September 5-9, but asked to be rescheduled to Singapore, claiming that he wanted to inspect a Boeing 747 Garuda plane being serviced at Changi Airport in Singapore.
According to the prosecution, Pollycarpus managed to book himself onto the same plane as Munir, the G-974 Garuda plane headed for Singapore. Prior to boarding, he reportedly approached Munir and offered him a place in business class, upgraded from economy class. According to the prosecutor, Pollycarpus informed one of the stewards of Munir's upgrade to avoid suspicion. After boarding the flight, Pollycarpus allegedly headed towards the galley and laced an orange juice drink with arsenic, realizing that Munir did not drink wine and would take the orange juice from the flight attendant. This poisoned drink was then offered to Munir by the flight attendant, after which Munir accepted and drunk it.
Pollycarpus and Munir parted company while the plane was transiting at Changi Airport. Pollycarpus headed to the Novotel Hotel in Singapore, while Munir proceeded on his journey to Holland, after transiting for one hour at Changi. Munir returned to his original seat in economy class.
Munir began experiencing discomfort, and three hours after taking off from Changi, began vomiting. Tarmizi, a doctor on the same flight, tried to help Munir but his efforts were fruitless. Munir passed away, two hours before the plane was due to land in Holland. According to the prosecutor, Pollycarpus murdered Munir. If convicted, Pollycarpus could face the death penalty.
His lawyer, Mohammad Assegaf, also criticized the prosecutor's indictment. According to Assegaf, the indictment is "abstract", accusing Pollycarpus of involvement in 'activities related to upholding the unity of the Indonesian Republic'. "Pollycarpus is only a pilot, and has no organizational involvement related to running the nation," said Assegaf.
Assegaf further criticized the indictment, arguing that a murder suspect should have a motive and reason. "This indictment makes no mention of motive or reason," he added. Assegaf also accused the prosecutor of speculation, claiming that accusing Pollycarpus of entering the galley and lacing the orange juice with arsenic is far-fetched. "How could he know that the drink would be served to Munir?" said Assegaf.
According to Assegaf, the food and drinks are sealed before being sent to the galley. Assegaf even claims that the flight attendant would have personally opened the sealed food and drink. "The prosecutor's indictment has many flaws," he said.
When asked about the allegedly flawed indictment, prosecution team member Edi Saputra responded: "No comment. Let's just wait and see at trial." According to Tempo's source at the AGO, the prosecution has preliminary evidence linking Pollycarpus to the crime, including the fact that he contacted Munir just two days before he was due to leave for Holland.
According to this source, Munir's wife Suciwati received the call. Another fact pointing to Pollycarpus's motive is the fact that he specifically asked to be rescheduled to Munir's flight.
However, Assegaf claims that the prosecutor's chain of events is far-fetched and illogical. "His chain of events begins with three letters, one signed by the President Director of Garuda, Indra Setiawan," he said.
At least 36 witnesses are scheduled to testify during trial, including Munir's wife, Suciwati. Members of Munir's Committee of Solidarity vowed to closely monitor the trial proceedings. Committee member Asmara Nababan said that the murder does not merely involve Pollycarpus. "Pollycarpus is only a small part of the Munir murder case," said Nababan, who was once deputy chair of the fact-finding team for Munir's case. Nababan also said that the Committee of Solidarity would ask President Yudhoyono to order that the findings of the fact-finding team be published. "So that the public realizes that Pollycarpus was merely a puppet," he added.
Sukma N Loppies, Rinaldi D. Gultom
Tempo August 9-15, 2005
Was BIN Involved?
APPROACHING its dissolution, the fact-finding team (TPF) for the Munir murder case was still questioning witnesses, including members of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN). Formed on December 23, 2004 the team was officially disbanded in June, its work now being continued by a team of police investigators, led by Police Brig. Gen. Marsudhi Hanafi.
Former TPF secretary, Usman Hamid, admitted that the team already had the name of the suspected mastermind behind the murder. He also said that BIN's involvement in the murder was clear. "Recent developments point to this fact," Hamid said, last Tuesday.
Investigators have also alleged BIN involvement in the murder, following their questioning of Pollycarpus. Tempo has received preliminary evidence in the form of several mobile phone numbers, one belonging to an important BIN official. Evidently, this official called Pollycarpus on August 25, September 3 and September 6, 2004 and another four times on September 7. When asked about the calls, Pollycarpus reportedly refused to comment, when questioned by investigators. -end-
SNL, Agriceli, Mawar Kusuma (from various sources)