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Ex-Intelligence Official on Trial for Indonesian Activist's Death

The former deputy chief of Indonesia's state intelligence agency has been charged with the murder of prominent human rights activist Munir Thalib. VOA Correspondent Nancy-Amelia Collins has more from Jakarta.

A former top spy for Indonesia's National Intelligence Agency, Muchdi Purwoprandjono, was formally charged in a Jakarta court Thursday with ordering the murder of prominent human rights activist Munir Thalib.

Prosecutors say Muchdi abused his power and position by assigning an agent to kill Munir, who died an agonizing death from arsenic poisoning, in 2004, while on a flight to Amsterdam on board the nation's flag carrier, Garuda Airlines.

Former Garuda pilot Pollycarpus Priyantois serving 20 years for giving Munir the arsenic-laced drink while in transit from Jakarta to Amsterdam.

Munir's wife, Suciwati, who has campaigned relentlessly to see those responsible for her husband's murder brought to justice, says she is hopeful this trial will reveal the truth about Munir's death.

She says this trial is the first step in revealing the masterminds behind Munir's murder. Suciwati has always believed her husband was the victim of a state conspiracy involving numerous individuals.

Muchdi is the only official from the national spy agency to be linked to Munir's murder. If found guilty, he could receive the death penalty.

Analysts say Muchdi's trial represents major progress in the government's efforts to uphold the rule of law and reform the corrupt judicial system.

Suciwati says she has always known there was corruption in the judicial system, but remained optimistic she could still find justice for her husband.

She says she still believes there are good people capable of bringing Munir's killers to justice and has remained hopeful that justice would prevail so long as she continued to push the authorities.

The prosecutor at Munir's trial, Silu Sinaga, alleged Muchdi ordered Munir killed because he had exposed Muchdi's involvement in the kidnapping of 13 activists that led to his firing.

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