Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, the convicted murderer of human rights activist Munir Said Thalib, died on Saturday after testing positive for COVID-19.
The former Garuda Indonesia pilot had served his time in prison, walked free two years ago and joined politics before he was diagnosed with the deadly disease and admitted to a hospital more than two weeks ago.
His former lawyer, Wirawan Adnan, confirmed his death after receiving the news from Pollycarpus’ wife, Yosepha Hera Iswandari. He was 59.
“He died at 2:52 p.m. at Pertamina Hospital [in Jakarta],” Wirawan said as quoted by kompas.com.
Munir was critical of the military for the abductions of student activists near the end of the Soeharto dictatorship and was involved in the drafting of many pro-human rights laws up until his death at the age of 39. He was killed with a lethal dose of arsenic thought to be ingested during a stopover in Singapore on a Garuda flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam on Sept. 6, 2004.
The high-profile murder case prompted overly complicated court decisions that exposed weaknesses in Indonesia’s judiciary system.
Pollycarpus was sentenced to 14 years in prison at the end of 2005 for his role in the murder. The Supreme Court acquitted him the following year, citing lack of evidence but then accepted a case review by prosecutors in 2007 that reinstated his murder conviction and extended his sentence to 20 years’ imprisonment.
He was granted parole in 2014 and officially finished serving his sentence in 2018.
Former Garuda cabin crew member Rohainil Aini was jailed for a year for being an accessory to the murder, but the alleged mastermind, former deputy of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN), Muchdi Purwoprandjono, was acquitted of all charges at the end of 2007.
According to his wife, Pollycarpus died of COVID-19, but his death has raised questions and prompted activists to call for a proper investigation.
Amnesty International Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid told a virtual discussion that the circumstances of his death should be investigated by the authorities, if only to rule out any suspicion of foul play.
“They say it was because of COVID-19, but it is a fact that [Pollycarpus] possessed a lot of vital information that could have led to further investigations,” Usman said on Sunday.
The activist, who was a fellow colleague of Munir and took part in a fact-finding team that looked into his death, called for a new investigation by the police and the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), which had just formed a small team to follow up on the news of Pollycarpus’ death.
“But while there is indeed a need to find out the exact circumstances [surrounding his death], it should be done in an adequate and objective manner,” Usman said.
Activists have also called on the government to establish a new fact-finding team to investigate other individuals allegedly involved in the murder, whom many believe to be important people as alleged in a 2005 investigative report by the case's fact-finding team.
Read also: Long road to see justice over Munir’s murder
The Solidarity Action Committee for Munir (KASUM) previously said that Pollycarpus’ death should not end the investigation into Munir’s death.
“It is important to note that the murder of Munir was not simply a crime but a conspiracy that involved many parties besides Pollycarpus who must be found, tried and punished,” KASUM secretary-general and constitutional law expert Bivitri Susanti said in a written statement on Saturday.
Meanwhile, criminal experts have said his death should not deter law enforcement from further investigations.
“There should be no reason to stop just because [Pollycarpus] is dead, if law enforcement is really willing to do so,” Trisakti University law expert Yenti Garnasih told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.
“This is a premediated murder. So it’s the responsibility of the state to figure out who is actually behind the case.”
Parahyangan University criminal law expert Agustinus Pohan was more concerned that the investigation may be compromised by the statute of limitations, which is set to end in 2022. “With his death we lost one of the sources,” Agustinus told the Post.
According to Article 78 of the Criminal Code, the statute of limitations for a crime charged with the death sentence or life in prison is 18 years.
“We can still discover more [after 2022], but we won’t be able to press charges. However, any discoveries would still be relevant and important especially to prevent a similar case from happening in the future,” Agustinus said. (tjs)