Justice or Intimidation in Munir Case?

Even after his death, the threats kept coming. On November 20th, 2004, Munir Said Thalib’s widow, Suciwati, received the severed head of a chicken with a note that warned her not to connect the Indonesian armed forces to her husband’s death.

“Do you want to end up like this?” the note asked menacingly.

Munir's widow, Suciwati, after the verdict. Photo by Berto Wedhatama/JP
Munir's widow, Suciwati, after the verdict. Photo by Berto Wedhatama/JP

This past week, the South Jakarta District Court acquitted retired Maj. General Muchdi Purwopranjono – formerly of the National Intelligence Agency – of all charges in the case of Munir’s murder.

“I have already lost my husband,” said Suciwati after the verdict. “Now, I lost justice.”

Munir, a lawyer, founded the human rights group, Kontras, and was known for his pursuit of human rights abuses committed during the Suharto era – a role which earned him plenty of enemies.

Did the warning and the threatening messages finally have an influence?

During the trial, five witnesses revoked their statements in the case. And, as Usman Hamid (the current director of Kontras) points out, prosecuters decided not to include a voice recording connecting Muchdi with Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto. Pollycarpus, the pilot of the Geruda flight on which Munir was poisoned, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the murder.

The National Police has said that the investigation dossiers had only been returned by prosecutors once in the lead up to the trial, suggesting that the evidence against Muchdi was solid.

Following Munir’s death in 2004, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono did the right thing by ordering a special investigative team to look into the matter. Now, following the startling verdict, he has “summoned” the National Police chief and the Attorney General for clarification into the decision. With a national election mere months away, the government cannot afford to gloss over this case.

But it remains to be seen if justice can still be salvaged – or if the work of anonymous threats will win out.

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