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Indonesia to step up probe into activist murder amid skepticism case will be solved

Indonesia to step up probe into activist murder amid skepticism case will be solved

Indonesia ordered a stepped-up probe into the poisoning death of a prominent rights activist after the man convicted in the killing was acquitted on appeal, 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 player in the conspiracy to kill Thalib, but not the mastermind. The team has previously revealed links between Priyanto and an agent from Indonesia's intelligence agency.
Thalib, 38, rose to prominence toward the end of Suharto's 32-year rule, which ended 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.
"I have thought from the very beginning that the police and prosecutors were not serious in chasing who the people working with Pollycarpus were," said Usman Hamid, another human rights activist. "If that is the case, it is impossible to find the real culprits."
Thalib's wife called on the government to do more to uncover the killers.
"The fact is that Munir was murdered. My demand is that the killer, whoever he is, is put on trial," said Suciawati, who goes by a single name.
"I ask the president to fulfill his commitment to uncover this conspiracy. Don't hide by arguing that the executive branch cannot intervene in the legal process."


Updated : 2021-04-15 05:17 GMT+08:00