Subject: AFP: Rights groups back Indonesia's Munir probe

Rights groups back Indonesia's Munir probe

Mon Apr 30, 4:21 AM ET

JAKARTA (AFP) - Human rights groups backed Monday an Indonesian police probe into the 2004 murder of a rights activist, hopeful it will reveal that the nation's intelligence agency was behind the killing.

Local groups said they were "cautiously optimistic" after police made several arrests over the murder and revealed late last week they were interviewing fresh witnesses.

The backing is a turnaround for rights groups who have been scathing of police efforts since leading rights campaigner Munir Said Thalib died on a Garuda flight to Amsterdam after his drink was laced with arsenic.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has come under pressure to reopen the investigation after the only person charged over the murder, Garuda pilot Pollycarpus Priyanto, had his conviction quashed by the Supreme Court late last year.

The ruling prompted an outcry from the groups and Munir's widow, already concerned about a cover-up because of links to intelligence agency BIN.

But Rafendi Djamin, coordinator of Indonesian Human Rights Watch Group, said the probe, reopened in January, was headed by one of Indonesia's chief detectives and was finally getting results.

"In the first investigation, BIN's involvement was not deeply looked at. But the current probe, with the arrest of the Garuda executives -- I see that it could lead to the masterminds, to those who gave the orders," Djamin said.

"They are the key witnesses to disclose BIN's involvement," he told AFP.

Earlier this month, police arrested the former head of Garuda and an ex-company secretary for questioning over alleged falsification of documents allowing an off-duty Priyanto to travel at the last minute on Munir's flight.

Police have also discovered that Munir was poisoned during a stopover at Singapore's Changi airport, rather than during the flight as originally thought.

Local media have reported police were questioning an Indonesian singer with alleged links to BIN over a meeting with Munir and Priyanto at Changi.

Activist Asmara Nababan said international pressure -- mainly from the United States and <http://search.news.yahoo.com/search/news/?p=European+Union>European Union -- had prompted authorities to act.

"We see seriousness from the police, so now we see progress, even though not much. Especially with the finding of new evidence, that makes it possible to request a judicial review of the Supreme Court's decision that freed Pollycarpus," Nababan said.

Nababan was deputy head of an independent fact-finding team appointed by Yudhoyono in December 2004 to sniff out the murderer and masterminds.

He said much of the information that it discovered, including concerns about BIN involvement, was never acted on and its report never publicly released.

Munir, who was 38 when he died, had made numerous powerful enemies through his work during and after the rule of dictator Suharto, which ended in 1998, exposing rights abuses including in Papua and <http://search.news.yahoo.com/search/news/?p=East+Timor>East Timor.


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