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Airline chief tried over murder

9 October 07 12:34 GMT

The former chief of Indonesia's national airline has gone on trial, accused of involvement in the murder of a leading human rights activist.

Prosecutors say former Garuda president Indra Setiawan deliberately allowed an off-duty pilot the opportunity to poison Munir Thalib in September 2004.

Lawyers for Mr Setiawan say the charges are unclear and should be dismissed.

The death of Mr Thalid, renowned for exposing security forces abuses, caused an international outcry.

Indonesia's intelligence agency is suspected of involvement, although prosecutors have not yet suggested a motive to the court in the capital, Jakarta.

Charges 'irrelevant'

Mr Setiawan is accused alongside Rohainil Aini, the flight operations officer at the time. Ms Aini is facing trial on the same charges, but in a separate courtroom.

They are accused of allowing off-duty pilot Pollycarpus Priyanto the opportunity to poison the activist with arsenic.

Mr Priyanto had been jailed for 14 years for the murder, but the supreme court overturned his conviction last year.

Government lawyers are trying to reverse the supreme court decision.

They say new evidence shows Mr Priyanto poisoned the activist with arsenic during a stop-over in Singapore.

But lawyers for the former Garuda executives argue that the supreme court ruling on Mr Priyanto makes the charges against their clients irrelevant.

Mr Munir, a prominent and vocal critic of the government and the military, died of arsenic poisoning as he flew from Jakarta to Amsterdam.

He earned his reputation as a human rights activist during the years of the Suharto dictatorship, when he frequently clashed with Indonesia's most powerful figures.

Mr Munir, who died at the age of 38, once said that he had "lost count" of the number of death threats he had received.

The case was opened and then adjourned for two weeks.

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