An Indonesian court Wednesday acquitted the former deputy chief of state intelligence of charges he ordered the mid-flight poisoning death of a prominent human rights campaigner.
A panel of judges cleared retired Maj. Gen. Muchdi Purwoprandjono of all charges, saying in a ruling at the South Jakarta District Court that he had "not been proven guilty."
The decision sparked an angry protest by hundreds of the victim's supporters and friends who vowed to continue fighting for transparent courts and accountable leaders and chanted, "Murderer! Murderer! Murderer!"
Munir Thalib died of arsenic poisoning on a flight with national carrier Garuda from Jakarta to Amsterdam in 2004. He led a campaign that exposed rights abuses by the military under late dictator Suharto.
Purwoprandjono has long been implicated by analysts in serious human rights abuses, including the disappearance of anti-Suharto students in 1998, when he briefly headed the feared special forces unit, Kopassus.
The prosecution had suggested that Thalib may have been murdered as revenge for his role in leading the investigation into those crimes.
Purwoprandjono, who walked out of the court minutes after the verdict was read, maintained his innocence throughout the trial.
Hundreds of his supporters belted out the national anthem in celebration.
Thalib's widow, Suciwati, who like many Indonesians uses a single name, was discussing an appeal with prosecutors.
"I have not only lost Munir, I have lost my sense of justice," she said.
Earlier this month, prosecutors demanded a 15-year sentence for Purwoprandjono, saying he had "planned and ordered" Thalib's murder.
The Supreme Court sentenced a former pilot, Pollycarpus Priyanto, in January to 20 years in prison for carrying out the murder, overturning an earlier acquittal by a lower court.
Human rights groups and foreign governments have watched the case as a gauge of judicial reform in the transitional democracy, plagued by corrupt courts after more than 32 years of harsh rule that ended in 1998.
"If Indonesia is to move beyond its authoritarian past, the justice system must show that generals are not above the law," Matt Easton of the Human Rights First group said ahead of the decision.