Acquittal in the Murder of Indonesian Rights Activist Strengthens Impunity

01 January 2009

Muchdi Purwopranjono auf der Anklagebank

Muchdi Purwopranjono in the dock

Photo: Fabian Junge

On 31 December 2008, the South Jakarta District Court acquitted Muchdi Purwopranjono, former Deputy Director of Indonesia’s national intelligence agency (BIN), for want of evidence. He has been charged with the murder of well-known human rights lawyer Munir. Watch Indonesia! criticizes the flawed conduct of judges and prosecutors: due to the implausible motive of the indictment, the weak evidence presented and the lack of witness protection, a conviction of Muchdi in accordance with rule of law-standards would have been impossible. The human rights organization demands a fresh investigation to clarify the case and bring those responsible to justice.

Major General (ret.) Muchdi, a former commander of the army’s notorious special forces unit, Kopassus, has been charged with ordering the murder of Munir, who was poisoned on an airplane in September 2004. According to the indictment, Muchdi was motivated by revenge, as Munir had exposed human rights violations committed under his command. “By assuming revenge as the motive, the prosecution avoided investigating the possible participation of other high-ranking intelligence figures in the murder”, says Alex Flor, Director of Watch Indonesia!.

A presidential fact-finding team had suspected former BIN-director Abdullah Mahmud Hendropriyono of being part of the conspiracy to murder Munir. Evidence that came up during the trial of Pollycarpus, who was convicted of carrying out the murder last year, also indicated Hendropriyono’s participation in the crime. “The motive the prosecution assigned to Muchdi made the case appear as though Muchdi was solely responsible for planning the murder. Hence, an investigation of the internal workings and mechanisms of the national intelligence agency became unnecessary. But, this investigation would have been crucial to identify all responsible persons and prove their culpability”, criticizes Flor.

Watch Indonesia! regrets that the prosecution presented only weak documental evidence. The prosecutions’s case was mainly based on the copy of a letter, a call data record and the affidavit of intelligence agent Budi Santoso, who is currently abroad.

“Prosecution and police did not fully exhaust their competences to collect evidence. For example, they neither searched BIN’s premises nor did they consistently demand Santoso’s appearance in court”, says Fabian Junge, coordinator for transitional justice and the rule of law at Watch Indonesia!.
Due to the lack of documental evidence, the prosecution relied mainly on witnesses. However, with one exception all witnesses from the intelligence agency vindicated Muchdi: Some did not even appear in court while others retracted, changed or even “forgot” statements they made during the police investigation. “The behavior of these witnesses demonstrates the necessity of a functioning witness protection program in Indonesia. The fact that the judges did not even deem it necessary to question the massive retraction of statements shows their lack of political will to clarify the case”, explains Junge. Or did the judges feel pressurized themselves?

Watch Indonesia! says with the flawed trial Indonesia missed another chance to end the decade-long impunity for human rights violations. “Police and Prosecution must re-investigate the case”, demands Junge. “They should focus on the intelligence agency as an organization and bring to justice all those responsible, disregarding their rank or social status. The Indonesian judiciary still owes a clarification of the murder to Munir’s family and friends as well as to the Indonesian and international public.” <>

For further information, please contact:

Alex Flor (

Fabian Junge (

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