Subject: Prosecutors in Muchdi Case Hit For Incompetence cases

Jakarta Globe

February 22, 2009

Heru Andriyanto

Prosecutors in Muchdi Case Hit For Incompetence

The prosecution's poor performance was a key factor in the acquittal of former top intelligence official Muchdi Purwoprandjono of charges that he ordered the murder of prominent rights activist Munir Said Thalib, a rights group said over the weekend.

The Attorney General's Office appointed Cyrrus Sinaga as head of the team that prosecuted Muchdi and Maju Ambarita as deputy prosecutor on the grounds that the two had previously demonstrated their determination in prosecuting military officers for alleged human rights violations in East Timor.

Critics, however, contend that record is not a good indicator of competence.

"All of the defendants who were brought to a rights tribunal by the two prosecutors were ultimately acquitted of all charges in the East Timor case," the Committee of Action and Solidarity for Munir, or Kasum, said in a statement over the weekend.

For the trial of Muchdi, a retired military general, "we need more than just bold prosecutors; we need ones who are professional, dedicated and independent," the group said.

We need more than just bold prosecutors; we need ones who are professional, dedicated, and independent.

Committee of Action and Solidarity for Munir

Muchdi was acquitted of all charges on Dec. 31, 2008 by the South Jakarta District Court, whose judges said prosecutors failed to prove any links between him and Pollycarpus Priyanto, a former pilot who had been sentenced to 20 years in jail for carrying out the murder.

Prosecutors accused Muchdi of ordering the murder of Munir to avenge his ouster from the top post of the Army's Special Forces, or Kopassus. Muchdi was dismissed from the elite force in mid-1998 after fierce criticism from Munir, who alleged that Kopassus was behind the abduction of 13 activists between 1997 and 1998.

Kasum's statement cited the prosecution's demand for a lighter jail term for Muchdi as further proof of their incompetence.

"In their indictment, prosecutors named Muchdi as the mastermind who ordered Pollycarpus to kill Munir," the statement said. "But they halfheartedly recommended a 15-year jail term for Muchdi, much lighter than the life sentence sought for Pollycarpus."

"[That] did not make any sense," the group said.

Prosecutors have already filed an appeal against the verdict with the Supreme Court.

Attorney General Hendarman Supandji told the House of Representatives last week that prosecutors demanded a lighter sentence for Muchdi because, unlike Pollycarpus, "Muchdi rendered exceptional service to the country when he was a soldier."

Hendarman also said the judges in the South Jakarta District Court ruled in favor of Muchdi because many key prosecution witnesses had retracted their testimonies.

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