Munir Sayeed: Mystery grows over activist's death

REPORTER: David O’Shea

Alif doesn't like it when his mother goes away.


But since his father, Munir, was assassinated, Suciwati has been travelling a lot. For three years now she's been on a tireless campaign to bring her husband's killers to justice. This time she is on her way to Holland.

SUCIWATI, (Translation): Wait for Mum, OK? For a week.

ALIF, (Translation): One week?

Alif is now old enough to know what happened. The other day he accidentally saw news on TV about Pollycarpus, the Garuda pilot accused of poisoning his father.

SUCIWATI, (Translation): He heard it and got angry when he found out. “Pollycarpus is a killer because of Pollycarpus I have no father.” I said “Pollycarpus isn't the only one who killed your dad, there are many other cruel people.” I said, “Evil people wanted to kill your dad because they were afraid of being found out”

This is Munir in 2004, one month before he was killed. He was a fierce critic of the Indonesian military and intelligence, investigating their illegal activities and lobbying for their many victims.

MUNIR, (Translation): They have seized power, they carry guns, they kill people and hide behind those in power. Should we let these cowards keep acting tough? No, they are only tough when they are in uniform. But deep down they are scum.

Munir left Jakarta on September 7, 2004 on a Garuda Airlines flight to Holland. En route he was given a lethal dose of arsenic and died an agonising death. Pollycarpus Priyanto, a Garuda pilot and alleged agent of the intelligence agency BIN, was sentenced to 14 years jail for the murder last year, but then controversially acquitted. And was the end of that, until now. A judicial review is hearing sensational new information in this controversial case. Police are introducing new evidence in a bid to have Pollycarpus retried for the murder. For weeks Munir's widow, Suciwati, has sat in the public gallery, hanging on every word. One new witness is Raden Patma, alias Ucok. He worked as a freelance news photographer, including a stint working for Reuters, but says he is also a BIN agent. Ucok says he received an order to kill Munir from a Mr Sentot, his handler at BIN. In his police statement he quotes Mr Sentot four months before Munir was killed.

POLICE STATEMENT: “If we put a bomb in Munir's car, would that be dangerous? Munir has to die before the presidential election, and you have to put forward a funding proposal for Munir's murder.”

They came up with four ideas for killing Munir and even tested the arsenic on a cat. The results pleased Mr Sentot who said it was:

MR SENTOT QUOTE: “Top stuff. We put it on salt fish, gave it to a cat, and the cat died.”

BIN claims Ucok is not their agent but he was able to give police this detailed description of his handler's office. Then the former chief executive officer of Garuda Airlines, Indra Setiawan, explains he received a letter before Munir's death from the intelligence agency, BIN. It was hand-delivered to him by Pollycarpus, and was a request to give him a security job at the airline.

INDRA SETIAWAN, (Translation): Who signed the letter? It was the deputy, the deputy director of the State Intelligence Service, It was stamped 'Secret'.

Indra Setiawan then authorised Pollycarpus to travel when and where he wanted. He used this to get on the flight with Munir. After denying any role in Munir's murder, the former Garuda chief has now changed his mind and is testifying against Pollycarpus. But in May this year he was desperate to ensure the BIN letter was covered up. In a dramatic moment the court hears a secretly recorded phone call the former Garuda boss made to Pollycarpus.

INDRA SETIAWAN, PHONE (Translation): My head's been spinning for days thinking about what happened. Do you know Mrs Asmini?

POLLYCARPUS, PHONE (Translation): His adjutant? Yesterday she said to stay calm.

Investigators believe 'Mrs Asmini' is a code name for the BIN deputy director who wrote the letter to Indra Setiawan.

POLLYCARPUS, PHONE (Translation): Everything's been disposed of including what was at my place. So as long as there's nothing at your place, we're safe.

INDRA SETIAWAN, PHONE (Translation): That's the problem. There's nothing there but I worry that photocopies were made. I worry about that possibility.

POLLYCARPUS, PHONE (Translation): No, if your copies were seized, then they're all gone.

USMAN HAMID, GOVERNMENT FACT-FINDING TEAM: He made a very big mistake in this case, he is the director of Garuda and he tried to cover up all he knows, and now he tried to took back his statements from the very beginning. So he changed his mind. And I'm happy that he has changed his mind and I hope the police put him under protection so then he can sing more song in this case.

One of the most significant new developments is that the police also seem to have changed their minds about where Munir was poisoned. They now believe the arsenic was added to his drink at a coffee shop at Singapore airport rather than on the plane.

USMAN HAMID: But maybe the poisoning took place more than one times but the police didn't found the evidence in the plane, they only found the evidence in the airport, so that's why they tried to focus on the airport. But that doesn't mean that in the plane there's nothing happened.

Another witness called by the court is Ongen, who was on his way to Holland on the same flight. He described seeing Munir with Pollycarpus at the Coffee Bean cafe at Singapore airport. This is what he wrote down for police.

ONGEN, REPORT: “When I walked into the Coffee Bean I saw Pollycarpus coming from the drinks counter. Then I ordered a drink. Pollycarpus returned to his seat. I got my drink and looked for a seat I saw Pollycarpus sitting with Munir, chatting and drinking.”

But after such a clear description to police, in court, Ongen, an Indonesian singer, dramatically changes his tune.

ONGEN, (Translation): And I never saw Pollycarpus sitting with Munir.

Clearly frustrated, the prosecutor reads from Ongen's signed police statement.

STATEMENT READ BY PROSECUTOR, (Translation): “I saw Mr Munir with a man who at the time I did not recognise. However, about four months later I found out via the electronic media that the man was Pollycarpus.” It's not true. But you were at the Coffee Bean?

ONGEN, (Translation): Yes.

PROSECUTOR, (Translation): Ongen, if it wasn't true, why did you sign it?

ONGEN, (Translation): I was threatened.

PROSECUTOR, (Translation): How were you threatened?

ONGEN, (Translation): “You will be made a suspect.” I swear I was threatened. I fainted then and there. When I came to, I felt my pants and found I had wet myself. I felt terribly, terribly tortured. My liberty had been stolen from me.

Ongen's role in this murky affair remains unclear but he may well be worried about the consequences of his statement, which in effect implicates the intelligence agency BIN in the murder. The judge checks with police commander Pambudi who took Ongen's statement.

JUDGE, (Translation): When the witness Ongen made the statement, was it clear?

PAMBUDI, (Translation): It was very clear. Every time I questioned him his lawyer was present. I'm sorry if he's withdrawing point number 49 of his statement on the grounds he was pressured. I'm sorry, Madame Judge.

ONGEN, (Translation): What Commander Pambudi has said is a lie.

After the day's session, one journalist says he thought Pollycarpus looked nervous.

POLLYCARPUS, (Translation): No, I'm not nervous. That is just your opinion.

REPORTER, (Translation): What about Ongen's testimony? What is your response?

POLLYCARPUS, (Translation): I think it is honest. I wasn't at the Coffee Bean.

REPORTER, (Translation): What about the others?

POLLYCARPUS, (Translation): Maybe they were mistaken or it was someone who looked liked me. Let them talk, the law will decide. Thank you all. REPORTER, (Translation): Do you deny being a BIN agent?

POLLYCARPUS, (Translation): Of course I do.

But Usman Hamid from the government's fact-finding team claims the police even have recordings of Pollycarpus's many phone calls to BIN.

USMAN HAMID: I talked to one of the generals in the police and he has convinced me that they got the recordings of the these telephone calls but they are very short – “yes, no, yes, just do it, do it, yes,” so that kind of conversation.

The 7th September marked the third anniversary of Munir's death, and for the first time in Indonesian history there's a demonstration at BIN headquarters. A few years back no-one would have dared take on this all-powerful intelligence agency. Suciwati tells the crowd her husband's case goes to the heart of Indonesia's new democracy.

SUCIWATI, (Translation): Any sane person can see that the Munir case is a test of the reforms of our system of government. In fact President Yudhoyono himself has said that the Munir case is an historic test for Indonesia.

CROWD, (Translation): Long live Munir! Long live Indonesia! Long live the Indonesian people!

They climb onto the fence and Usman Hamid and Suciwati offer flowers to the BIN personnel.

USMAN HAMID, (Translation): Take them! Take them! Come on, sir.

REPORTER: What are you doing?

USMAN HAMID: I am doing, I am giving the flower, the flower, the flower as a proof that we love the country, we love the country, and we will build the country without any anti-military practice, without any crimes, without any violence. And we want the intelligence agency to clean up themselves for any criminals inside.

Usman Hamid of the Munir fact-finding team says there is now a split appearing inside the agency over the Munir case.

USMAN HAMID: I think the current situation is… we can say it is a kind of power struggle inside BIN, inside the police and in Indonesian politics in general. So I think what is happening today is a very serious process of legal proceeding, of investigation, but what will happen tomorrow, it will still depend on how that power struggle running, who will win that struggle?

As Suciwati approaches the airport en route to Europe to continue her international campaign on this case, she says there is no alternative but to fight for justice.

SUCIWATI, (Translation): If you die in vain, then why bother living? That's all, really. My goals are simple. I want to see Indonesia change, change for the better. I want that for my children and grandchildren. I don't want any more murders or kidnappings committed in the name of the authorities.

Feature Report: Munir- The mystery deepens