Saturday, May 19, 2007

Police protect key witnesses in Munir case

Saturday, April 21, 2007
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The National Police confirmed Friday that it is protecting key witnesses to the 2004 murder of human rights activist Munir Said Thalib.

"We are protecting all the witnesses that we regard as being important as is mandated by the law on witness protection. Even though there has been no request to do so from the witnesses, the police will still proportionally decide whether a witness needs protection," National Police spokesman Comr. Gen. Sisno Adiwinoto told reporters Friday.

Sisno said that police have so far questioned two suspects and 39 witnesses.

"Just be patient with the investigation. We need time for this. An investigation usually takes time because of the need for objectivity. We need more evidence. The Criminal Code does not allow the police to present lone evidence," Sisno said.

"We are still investigating the case and until now have named only two suspects, IS and N. The information we gather from witnesses and suspects is not for public consumption, as it might paralyze further investigations."

The police detained last Saturday former Garuda Indonesia president director Indra Setiawan and Rohainil Aini, the secretary to Garuda's chief pilot.

Meanwhile, National Police chief Gen. Sutanto acknowledged that police were experiencing difficulties in solving the case not only because of the length of time between Munir's poisoning and the current phase of the investigation, but also because the crime scene was outside National Police jurisdiction.

"We are still collecting evidence and questioning witnesses in order to proceed with the case. We will not give up," he told reporters at National Police headquarters. "Anything could happen, even the 39 witnesses could become suspects."

Asked whether several prominent figures from the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) would be questioned, Sutanto said that the naming of any new suspects would be based on solid evidence and not on assumption.

Former BIN chief Hendropriyono and a BIN officer, Muchdi P.R., who have long been implicated in Munir's murder, both announced Monday they are ready to be questioned by police.

Munir was a critic of the Indonesian Military, accusing it of rights violations in the troubled provinces of Aceh and Papua and of running a network involved in illegal logging and drug smuggling.

Munir was found dead Sept. 7, 2004, on the GA 974 Garuda flight to Amsterdam which included a stopover in Singapore.

Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto is the only person ever to have been charged for the murder of Munir, although the verdict was later overruled by the Supreme Court.

Authorities now believe Munir and Pollycarpus were seen talking during a stopover at Changi Airport in Singapore, before both continued their flight to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on Sept. 7, 2004.

It is now suspected that Munir, who died aboard the GA 972 Garuda flight before it landed in Amsterdam, was unknowingly given arsenic at Changi Airport, not during the flight as was earlier believed. (02)

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