Indonesia’s justice minister has responded to mounting criticism over the early release of Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, the murderer of prominent human rights advocate Munir Said Thalib.
By Jakarta Globe on 06:07 pm Dec 01, 2014
Jakarta. Indonesia’s justice minister has responded to mounting criticism over the early release of Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, the murderer of prominent human rights advocate Munir Said Thalib.
“We have to be able to respect the rights of all inmates regardless of the criticisms,” the minister, Yasonna H. Laoly, told Detik.com on Monday.
Pollycarpus was released on parole from Sukamiskin Penitentiary in Bandung on Friday after serving eight years of a 14-year sentence for the deadly poisoning of Munir in 2004.
Yasonna, who signed the parole document after agreeing to Pollycarpus’s release, said every inmate who had served two-thirds of their conviction was eligible for parole.
The parole decision has led to a storm of criticism from human rights groups, who say it undermines President Joko Widodo’s talk of human rights protection while on the campaign trail.
Yasonna, however, tried to distance himself and his office from the decision on Monday, saying the Justice Ministry was only responsible for upholding the law and ensuring inmates’ rights were respected.
“It’s not our ministry that must act harshly; it should have been started at the court,” he said. “We are only authorized to determine whether or not an inmate deserves to have a sentence cut or be released on parole. Please do not force us to break the rules.”
However, he left the door open to a review of the decision, which has been demanded by human rights activists.
“If there was something wrong with it [the decision] of course we will revisit the release, and I am open to criticism,” Yasonna said.
Rights groups have lined up to condemn the government over Pollycarpus’s release, with some suggesting that Munir’s case be looked at again.
The activist’s life came to a painful end on Sept. 7, 2004, on board a flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam.
Former Garuda Indonesia pilot Pollycarpus was seated next to Munir on the flight, which included a stop in Singapore to refuel and take on more passengers. Pollycarpus was seen offering Munir a coffee at Singapore’s Changi International Airport. A court later found that the drink had been spiked with arsenic.
Munir reboarded the plane on to Amsterdam while Pollycarpus remained in Singapore. The activist and staunch critic of the Indonesian government and military died in agony before the plane landed in the Netherlands.
Pollycarpus was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the murder but given 14 on appeal. He applied for early release in November 2012 but it was not granted because he had applied for a case review at the same time.
Febi Yonesta, the director of the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Jakarta), said Pollycarpus did not deserve parole as he had consistently refused to reveal the alleged mastermind behind the murder — speculated to be from the ranks of the National Intelligence Agency (BIN).
Muhammad Isnur, another lawyer at LBH Jakarta, said the release had hurt the public’s and the country’s sense of justice.
“During the verdict of the appeal in Pollycarpus’s case, the judges stated that Pollycarpus’s crime was inhumane and had humiliated Indonesia at an international level,” Muhammad said.