[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 December 2005, 06:44 GMT
Indonesia pilot jailed for murder
Munir (picture courtesy Right Livelihood Award)
Munir's death sparked an outcry
An Indonesian court has sentenced an off-duty airline pilot to 14 years' jail for murdering a rights activist.

The court said Pollycarpus Priyanto poisoned a glass of orange juice served to Munir Thalib during a flight to Amsterdam last September.

Judges said the motivation behind the killing was political, as Munir was a prominent and vocal critic of the government and the military.

Pollycarpus denied any wrongdoing and said he was the victim of a conspiracy.

Correspondents say the case has been seen as an important test of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's administration, and its determination to tackle powerful institutions like the military, who dominated Indonesia's recent past.

"The accused has been found guilty of premeditated murder," said Judge Cicit Sutiarso as he handed down the sentence on Tuesday.

He also said Pollycarpus was guilty of falsifying documents.

But he did not say whether the pilot was acting on higher orders, sparking criticism from Munir's supporters who have long claimed that more senior, intelligence officials were behind the killing.

Earlier this year, independent investigators said they had found indications the country's intelligence agency had been involved, but this evidence was not mentioned by prosecutors.

'Numerous' death threats

Munir's wife said alleged connections between Pollycarpus and the State Intelligence Agency were ignored by the court.

Pollycarpus Priyanto, is escorted by police officers after his trial in Jakarta, Tuesday, 9 Aug 2005
Pollycarpus Priyanto denied all charges against him

"They have to find the mastermind. Pollycarpus played only a small part in this conspiracy," she said.

Pollycarpus himself alleged he has been made a scapegoat. "I reject all the charges and the verdict. I didn't do it," he shouted after the judges read out their verdict.

Munir, who was 38 at the time of his death, was a prominent human rights activist who earned his reputation during the years of the Suharto dictatorship, when he frequently clashed with Indonesia's entrenched interests.

He once said that he had "lost count" of the number of death threats he had received.

His refusal to bow to pressure had earned him iconic status among other dissidents who suffered for their decision to challenge the authorities.

He co-founded a pressure group called Imparsial, dedicated to helping victims of human rights abuses. The group has been consistently critical of Indonesia's lack of legal protection and the country's still-powerful military.

Munir died of arsenic poisoning as he flew to Amsterdam to begin studying for a Master's degree in September 2004.

Prosecutors said Pollycarpus was on board for the first leg of the flight, between Jakarta and Singapore.

They said Pollycarpus gave up his business class seat for Munir, then arranged for a large dose of arsenic to be added to Munir's orange juice.

Pollycarpus left the flight in Singapore, while Munir rang his wife to say he was feeling unwell. Hours later, as the plane approached Amsterdam, he died.

See the protests outside the court in Jakarta

Profile: Munir Thalib
20 Dec 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Munir murder motive 'made up'
16 Aug 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Pilot charged over Munir's murder
29 Jul 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Spies implicated in Munir death
23 Jun 05 |  Asia-Pacific
'Munir killers considered sorcery'
14 Jun 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Indonesia widens Munir enquiry
23 Mar 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Indonesia
15 Sep 05 |  Country profiles


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific