Sunday, June 22, 2008
Indonesia military chief arrested for murder
THE former head of the Indonesian military’s special forces and deputy head of the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) has been arrested for the murder of the country’s leading human rights activist. Major-General Muchdi Purwopranjono surrendered to police in Jakarta last night and was charged with the premeditated murder of Munir Thalib.
The poisoning of Mr Munir on a flight to Amsterdam in 2004 has been Indonesia’s most controversial crime, with allegations the murder was sanctioned at the highest level, dogging President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.Mr Munir angered Indonesia’s military and intelligence elite by exposing widespread corruption and human rights abuses in the provinces of Aceh and Papua.
At the time of the murder, Muchdi was the deputy director of BIN, responsible for covert operations.Police spokesman Abubakar Nataprawira said Muchdi, now retired, was being held in police custody.He revealed a warrant had been issued for his arrest several days ago, but the former Kopassus commander decided to surrender yesterday.The arrest is likely to send a shockwave through Indonesia’s corridors of power but will be applauded by human rights organisations, which have described the killing and subsequent cover-ups as one of the blackest marks on Indonesia’s reputation.Mr Munir was poisoned with arsenic during a transit stopover in Singapore, dying in agony during the flight.
A Garuda employee was allegedly seen providing Mr Munir with a drink in an airport coffee shop.Several investigations into the killing were abandoned, despite the conviction of Garuda Airlines pilot and alleged BIN agent Pollycarpus Priyanto for the murder.In December 2005 Pollycarpus was sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment. But in October 2006, his conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court, citing insufficient evidence.The Supreme Court then re-opened the case for a judicial review and he was sentenced again in January this year, this time to 20 yearsBIN denied any links to Pollycarpus or the murder.
Investigators had revealed that 41 telephone calls between Pollycarpus and Muchdi’s phone around the time of Mr Munir’s murder.Muchdi claimed ignorance of the calls.A fresh investigation ordered by Dr Yudhoyono this year revealed a “smoking gun”, with BIN agent Budi Santoso Najubg making a sworn statement that he helped Pollycarpus draft a letter to the head of the national airline Garuda, ordering he be assigned to security duties.The letter enabled Pollycarpus to board the flight to Amsterdam alongside Mr Munir.”I was often ordered by Muchdi to check on where Pollycarpus was,” said Mr Santoso, who was then an operations director with BIN.He also delivered several thousand dollars from Muchdi to Pollycarpus before and after Mr Munir’s murder.The assignment letter was to be signed by BIN’s deputy chief Mohammad As’ad, according to Mr Santoso.He also said that Pollycarpus was part of BIN’s “network” and in regular contact with General Muchdi.Human rights groups have said that the evidence proved BIN officials had perjured themselves in several court hearings, but were despairing about the failure to charge more senior officials for their role in the murder.
The former head of Garuda airline was sentenced to a year’s jail in January this year for helping in the murder of Mr Thalib.Indra Setiawan had confessed to assigning Pollycarpus to security duties, which enabled him to board the flight to Amsterdam alongside Mr Munir.