Indonesia ordered a stepped-up probe into the poisoning death of a prominent rights activist after the man convicted in the killing was acquitted, but fellow rights workers Thursday were skeptical the case will ever be solved.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday quashed the conviction of an off-duty pilot who had been sentenced to 14 years for putting a fatal dose of arsenic in food served to Munir Thalib as he was flying to Amsterdam on state-owned airline Garuda Indonesia.
The decision angered many in Indonesia, where the case is seen as a test of how much the country has changed since the Suharto dictatorship under which activists and government critics were often murdered or tortured, allegedly by security forces.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ordered the police to "improve and heighten their investigation" into Thalib's killing, the president's spokesman told reporters after the verdict was announced.
Asmara Nababan, a leading rights activist and a member of an independent fact-finding team established by Yudhoyono last year to probe the case, dismissed the spokesman's words.
"Those kind of things have been said before," Nababan said on el-Shinta radio. "It is only rhetoric, a kind of public relations. If there is no action from the president, the case will not be solved."
Nababan said the fact-finding team believed the off-duty pilot, Pollycarpus Priyanto, was a key player in the conspiracy to kill Thalib. The team has previously revealed links between Priyanto and an agent from Indonesia's intelligence agency.
Munir, 38, rose to prominence toward the end of Suharto's 32-year rule, which ended with his overthrow in 1998 amid nationwide riots. The activist went on to probe killings by Indonesian troops during East Timor's bloody struggle for independence and military-led violence in the separatist provinces of Papua and Aceh.