Jakarta. Former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the missing files from the investigation into the murder of prominent human rights activist Munir Said Thalib has turned into political issue against him, but that he will take responsibility for the matter.
Yudhoyono, who served as president from 2004 to 2014, was pressured to take responsibility for the files, which are believed to have been lost during his last year in office.
Munir died on board a Garuda Indonesia flight to Amsterdam in September 2004, nearly a month before Yudhoyono was inaugurated as president.
"The legal issue has turned into politics. But I am no newbie to politics in this country; this is something normal," Yudhoyono said during a press conference at his residence in Cikeas, Bogor district, West Java, on Tuesday (25/10).
"My responsibility is to provide an explanation in a proper and relevant context to a matter that has captured the public attention, in particular human rights activists, who have certain interests in the Munir case," Yudhoyono said.
The former president, who is also leader of the Democratic Party, said he was responsible for follow-ups on the murder investigation, which was conducted by the National Police, with the assistance of an independent fact-finding team.
Sudi Silalahi, a former cabinet secretary during the Yudhoyono era, said in the press conference that the previous administration had done everything possible to support the investigation, including to allow the National Police's criminal investigative unit (Bareskrim) to probe any government officials in the country and abroad.
He added that Yudhoyono never, at any point, ordered the investigation or law enforcement efforts regarding the murder case to be halted.
"In response to the fact-finding team's recommendations that indicated possible involvement by [former intelligence chief] A.M. Hendropriyono, the questioning of witnesses and convicts revealed no links to him," Sudi said.
Although the investigation failed to provide satisfying results, Sudi said the probe had been conducted properly and in accordance with the law and that Yudhoyono had no authority at the time to intervene.
Also present at the press conference was former top spook Syamsir Siregar and former leader of the fact-finding team Marsudi Hanafi.
In response to Yudhoyono's statement, Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) coordinator Haris Azhar deplored the fact that this explanation had not been given to President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo during the transition in October 2014.
"Sudi Silalahi blamed legal issues as the reason for the Munir murder case not having been finalized yet. The statement is a strong signal that the current administration should not stand idle to let the case be forgotten and not to do something with it," Haris said in a statement.
There are strong indications of the possible involvement of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN), which was headed by Hendropriyono at the time, Haris said.
"To open the fact-finding team's files on the Munir murder case will be a large and serious task. But this is important to prove that the state is making progress on law enforcement and human rights in Indonesia," Haris added.
He expressed appreciation for Yudhoyono clearly stating that the case files are not missing, as dossiers had also been submitted to national archives.