Jakarta. National Police Chief Gen. Sutarman said on Wednesday that the police would not reopen the investigation of the 2004 assassination of Munir Said Thalib — disappointing supporters of the slain human rights activist, who will view the announcement as a setback in their campaign for a judicial review.
The announcement means that the police will not assist prosecutors in searching for new evidence needed to file a review of the case against Muchdi Purwoprandjono, the former deputy head of Indonesia's State Intelligence Agency (BIN).
Muchdi was acquitted by a Jakarta court in 2008 — which found he had no involvement in a death that activists say remains unsolved.
The only person convicted of Munir's murder was Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto — a former pilot for flag carrier Garuda Indonesia. Pollycarpus was sentenced to 20 years, later reduced to 14 on appeal, for having poisoned Munir with arsenic on Sept. 7, 2004, during a layover in Singapore before the 38-year-old activist boarded a flight for Amsterdam. Munir died before the plane landed in the Netherlands. He was on his way to study humanitarian law at Utrecht University.
Munir founded the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) to advocate justice for the victims of abuses committed by the state. His work involved included strong criticism of excesses committed by members of the Indonesian Military (TNI).
His supporters continue to maintain that the killing was state sponsored — something to which the police have been able only to shrug their shoulders after the original investigation did not find evidence to convict anyone sponsored by the state.
"The National Police have done their best in the investigation and the suspect [Muchdi] was declared not guilty on all charges," Sutarman said. "We can only reopen the case if there is new evidence."
Prosecutors did file an appeal in 2009 against the acquittal of Muchdi. But that appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court. The then-deputy attorney general, Darmono, said the AGO was considering applying for a judicial review — the only option left to prosecutors — but that has yet to materialize.
Attention on the case was renewed when Pollycarpus was released on parole last week after serving eight years of his 14-year jail sentence.
Munir's supporters said over the weekend that the release of Pollycarpus reflected negatively on President Joko Widodo's commitment to human rights.
“This is a bad sign for the government of Joko Widodo,” said Hendardi, the head of the Committee of Solidarity Action for Munir (Kasum).
Indonesian Human Rights Monitor (Imparsial) executive director Poengki Indarti added that the decision to release Pollycarpus would damage Joko's image.
The subsequent clamor for a review of the case puts Joko in a difficult position. This is because the president appointed A.M. Hendropriyono to a senior advisory role in his government.
Hendropriyono was the intelligence chief at the time and was known to have been present at at least one meeting at the offices of the BIN with Muchdi and Pollycarpus. The substance of that meeting has never been declared, to the disappointment of Munir's supporters.
They maintain that Pollycarpus had no personal motive to murder Munir.