Indonesia: Munir supporters decry state’s ‘injustice’

The Supreme Court (MA) has cut the prison sentence handed down to Pollycarpus Budihari Prijanto, the convicted murderer of human rights campaigner Munir Said Thalib, from 20 years to 14 years.

Many have cried foul over the fresh verdict, saying that it was unusual that the Supreme Court should overturn a decision following a judicial review request filed by Pollycarpus in 2011.

In 2008, the Supreme Court had increased Pollycarpus’ jail term from 14 years to 20 for his role in the murder of Munir. The ruling was in response to an appeal by the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) against an earlier ruling by the Supreme Court, which acquitted Pollycarpus of the murder charge and instead sentenced him to two years in jail for falsifying documents that allowed him to board a Garuda International airplane on which Munir was traveling.

The court announced on Monday that justices handling the 2008 appeal had argued that a defendant could be given a prison term higher than the one handed down by a district court.

Three of the five justices who sanctioned this current sentence reduction were Dudu D. Machmudin, Sri Murwahyuni and Zaharuddin Utama.

One judge, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Jakarta Post that prosecutors had failed to prove that Pollycarpus was a member of, and had been assigned by, the National Intelligence Agency (BIN).

Meanwhile, the two other justices, Salman Luthan and Sofyan Sitompul, gave a dissenting opinion, arguing that the ruling was not consistent with “a sense of justice”.

“I dissented as I considered the previous prosecutor’s argument [in the previous 2008 case review] accommodated the public’s sense of justice,” Salman told the Post.

Pollycarpus, a former pilot with state flag carrier Garuda Indonesia, was sentenced in December 2005 to 14 years’ imprisonment by judges at the Central Jakarta District Court for putting arsenic in Munir’s tea at a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf outlet at Singapore’s Changi airport, where Munir was in transit en route to Amsterdam in September 2004.

The Supreme Court increased the original jail term to 20 years in January 2008.

Pollycarpus was said to have had ties with former deputy BI chief Maj. Gen. Muchdi Purwopranjono, who allegedly instructed Pollycarpus to murder Munir, an outspoken critic of alleged human rights violations by the Indonesian Military (TNI) in Aceh, Papua and Timor Leste, as well as corruption by government officials.

Muchdi was taken to court in 2008, but he was cleared of all the charges laid against him in connection with Munir’s murder.

A fact-finding team established by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2005 to investigate the case also included former BIN chief AM Hendropriyono who, along with certain other individuals, allegedly played a role in the murder.

The team recommended that President Yudhoyono instruct the National Police chief to further investigate the role of Hendropriyono in the case, as well as other suspects including Muchdi, former Garuda president Indra Setiawan and former Garuda corporate security vice president Ramelgia Anwar.

Moreover, the team recommended that Yudhoyono establish a second team with greater power and reach to conduct a thorough investigation within BIN.

Nothing has been heard since the fact-finding team officially submitted their findings to the President.

Activists from the Solidarity Action Committee for Munir (Kasum) said the committee would first conduct an in-depth study of the Supreme Court’s ruling and then file a complaint with the Judicial Commission.

“It is very unusual for the Supreme Court to overturn one of its own rulings, especially over a previously rejected judicial review,” said Choirul Anam of Kasum.

Separately, Poengky Indarti from human rights watchdog Imparsial, who testified against Muchdi during his 2008 trial, said the Supreme Court ruling highlighted “the state’s lack of commitment to upholding justice and human rights”.

“This has shut the door on the search for justice by Munir’s family and rights campaigners,” she said.