Subject: New Munir Probe Demanded by House

The Jakarta Post Friday, December 8, 2006

House demands new probe of Munir death

M. Taufiqurrahman, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The House of Representatives urged the government Thursday to set up an independent team to investigate the 2004 assassination of human rights campaigner Munir Said Thalib.

A House plenary meeting endorsed a recommendation that will put political pressure on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to bring to justice those behind Munir's murder.

"Establishment of the team will show the government's and law enforcers' commitment and seriousness about resolving Munir's death," chairman of a House team focusing on Munir's murder, Taufiqurrahman Saleh, said.

Legislators have suggested a new team be headed by National Police chief Gen. Sutanto and answer to the President.

It recommended Sutanto seek assistance from international agencies, should the police face "technical problems" in their probe into Munir's death.

"This is part of the President's commitment to promoting human rights at the national and international level," Taufiqurrahman said.

The House's recommendation won praise from Munir's widow, Suciwati, and fellow activists.

Suciwati and executive director of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) Usman Hamid, who both attended the plenary session, were visibly pleased by the vote.

"I am happy with this recommendation. This is a formal decision from the House of Representatives, which means it is the voice of the people, and we do hope the President is listening," Suciwati said after the plenary session's close.

She said with the recommendation, Yudhoyono had no choice but to follow up earlier investigations.

"Should he fail (to do so) ... his promise to resolve Munir's death is empty," Suciwati said.

Early in October, Suciwati and Usman sought political support from the House to resolve Munir's death, asking it to put pressure on the government.

They demanded it set up a new investigative team after an earlier presidential fact-finding team was blocked from probing Munir's murder.

Munir was poisoned to death on board Garuda Indonesia flight to the Netherlands in September 2004.

Despite calls for the release of the team's findings, they have never been fully disclosed to the public.

The government recently revived the team and named Brig. Gen. Suryadharma Nasution its latest chief.

Suryadharma was the first officer assigned to lead the team when it was established in 2005. He was later replaced by Brig. Gen. Marsudi Hanafi after his performance in the job was criticized.

The Supreme Court recently quashed the murder conviction of the sole suspect in the case, Garuda pilot Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, leaving no one responsible for the activist's death.

A lower court and the fact-finding team had concluded that the murder implicated former top agents of the National Intelligence Agency and Garuda executives.

Despite this evidence, none have ever been brought to trial.

------------------------------------------ Joyo Indonesia News Service

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