Subject: Prosecution's call for leniency angers Munir's supporters

Prosecution's call for leniency angers slain activist's supporters

Tom Allard and Karuni Rompies, Jakarta

December 3, 2008

INDONESIAN prosecutors have asked for a prison sentence of 15 years for the senior intelligence operative and former Kopassus commander, Muchdi Purwopranjano, whom they allege organised the 2004 assassination by arsenic poisoning of a prominent human rights activist.

Prosecutor Cirus Sinaga described Muchdi as the "initiator" of the murder of Munir Said Thalib, but said the light sentence was requested because "Muchdi has served the country and received many medals for that. We must respect that."

The proposed sentence angered Munir's supporters and follows a lengthy battle to get to the bottom of who orchestrated the killing, which took place on a flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam in September 2004.

The case is widely seen as a test of the accountability of the military and intelligence elite in a democratic Indonesia.

The "premeditated murder" of Munir was physically undertaken by an Indonesian state intelligence (BIN) agent and former airline pilot, Pollycarpus Priyanto, who slipped the lethal dose of arsenic into his drink during a stopover at Singapore airport. Pollycarpus received a prison sentence of 20 years but prosecutors then went after more senior intelligence figures following public disquiet.

Muchdi was a deputy director at BIN at the time of the assassination in 2004 and had briefly been commander of Kopassus, Indonesia's special forces unit. He was relieved of his Kopassus post after Munir revealed details of its role in the disappearance of student activists.

Munir's widow, Suciwati, told reporters after the hearing: "Logically the initiator must get life. I hope the panel of judges will listen to their conscience when deciding the case."

Munir's friend and fellow human rights activist Usman Hamid said prosecutors had been intimidated into requesting a lighter sentence. "The prosecutors' work does not fulfil the feeling of justice," he said.

The hearing is adjourned until December 11, when Muchdi's response to the sentencing request will be heard.

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