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Indonesian Police Arrest Ex-Intelligence Deputy over Murder of Prominent Activist


Indonesian police have arrested the former deputy head of the National Intelligence Agency for involvement in the 2004 murder of prominent activist Munir Thalib. VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins in Jakarta has more.

The former deputy head of Indonesia's National Intelligence Agency and former head of the military's special forces, Muchdi Purwopranjono, surrendered to police Thursday night.

Police spokesman Abubakar says Muchdi will be charged with premeditated murder for the poisoning death of prominent activist Munir Thalib.

"Yesterday he was summoned, he came with his lawyer and his status is already a suspect, and he will be charged with premeditated murder," he said.

Munir died of arsenic poisoning while on a flight to Amsterdam with the nation's flag carrier Garuda in September 2004.

The long and controversial investigation into his murder has been seen as a test of how serious the government is about upholding the rule of law even when it may include state agencies such as the National Intelligence Agency.

Hendardi, a human rights lawyer, lauded the arrest of Muchdi, saying it is will help unravel what many believe is the conspiracy behind Munir's murder.

"This is just the beginning to see who the real actors are behind this case - the actor who planned it, the actor who carried it out, and the actor who gave the orders," he said.

Munir angered Indonesia's military and intelligence agency by exposing systematic human right abuses in the country, most especially in Aceh and Papua provinces.

At the time of Munir's murder, Muchdi was the deputy head of the National Intelligence Agency responsible for covert operations.

In December 2005, Pollycarpus Priyanto, a Garuda pilot and alleged member of the intelligence agency, was sentenced to 14 years in prison for his role in Munir's murder.

But in October 2006, his conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court, citing insufficient evidence.

Pollycarpus's case was reopened by the Supreme Court for a judicial review and he was sentenced again in January to 20 years in prison.

Human rights lawyer Hendardi says pressure from the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the Indonesian people kept Munir's case alive.

"We can give appreciation to President Yudhoyono because the case is still moving forward, which is because of the political will from the government, and also because of the tremendous pressure from the people," he said.

The National Intelligence Agency denies any links to Pollycarpus or to Munir's murder.