Indonesian prosecutors said Friday that they will appeal the acquittal of a former top intelligence agency official accused in the poisoning murder of a prominent rights activist aboard a flight to the Netherlands.
The acquittal of retired Major General Muchdi Purwoprandjono has been criticised as a sign that the courts remain incapable of prosecuting authority figures a decade after the end of the 32-year Suharto dictatorship, which was renowned for corruption and nepotism.
Prosecutors had sought a 15-year sentence for Purwoprandjono on charges of abusing power and ordering the killing of Munir Thalib, who was poisoned in September 2004.
Jasman Panjaitan, a spokesman for the public prosecutors office, said paperwork was being prepared to seek to overturn the December 31 ruling by the South Jakarta District Court, which found the defendant not guilty.
“We must respect the outcome of the trial, but we hope the Supreme Court will come up with the most just verdict,” he said.
Brad Adams, who heads the Asian operations of the New York-based Human Rights Watch, called the acquittal a political decision that shows senior military or security officials are still enjoying impunity.
“Indonesia cannot count itself as a genuine democracy so long as one of the main pillars of democracy – a functioning judicial system that can hold the powerful as well as the weak accountable – continues to fail,” Adams said.
Thalib, 38, died of arsenic poisoning onboard a flight with national carrier Garuda. He had gained a reputation for exposing abuses by Indonesian security forces, including student abductions by special forces under Purwoprandjono’s command.
An ex-Garuda pilot is serving a 20-year sentence for carrying out the murder, but authorities believe the order for the killing came from within the government agency.