Pilot in court for Munir's murder

The list of murdered human rights activists and environmentalists is long - and in most cases dark governmental and corporate forces play a role in the assassinations, which usually also provide for the cover-up and some lame explanations concerning the sudden death of a defender. Here is one of the rare cases where we might get some more light into the dark alleys of state and corporate terror.

Pilot in court for Munir's murder

By Rachel Harvey BBC News, Jakarta

A pilot with the Indonesian national airline Garuda has gone on trial over the murder of a human rights activist.

Munir Said Thalib died last September on a flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam, and a post-mortem showed he had ingested lethal amounts of arsenic.

The pilot, Pollycarpus Priyanto, who was off-duty during the flight, is the first suspect to be charged over Munir's death. He denies all charges.

Two cabin crew have also been arrested but their cases are not yet in court. The eight-page indictment, a copy of which has been obtained by the BBC, says Pollycarpus, aged 44, planned to kill Munir on the first leg of his journey from Jakarta to Singapore.

The document alleges that he arranged for a lethal dose of arsenic to be added to a glass of orange juice which was served to Munir shortly after he boarded the Garuda Indonesia plane.

The prosecution says that Pollycarpus - a senior pilot with the airline - made sure he was on the same flight as Munir by forging documents which suggested he had a special assignment in Singapore.

He could face the death penalty if convicted.

Inquiry criticised

Munir was a highly respected and outspoken human rights advocate who had often criticised the conduct of Indonesian security forces.

An independent investigation into his murder found indications the state intelligence agency may have been involved. The recently retired head of the agency has denied any connection to the killing.

Police inquiries are continuing but critics say leads are not being pursued as vigorously as they should be. The trial of Pollycarpus will be watched closely in part to see if the defendant is willing to shed any more light on the murky circumstances surrounding this high-profile murder.



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August 2005

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