Munir Said Thalib

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Munir Said Thalib

Munir Said Thalib (Arabic: منير سعيد طالب الكثيري[1]) (December 8, 1965 Malang, East Java – September 7, 2004), affectionately known simply as Munir, was one of Indonesia's most famous human rights and anti-corruption activists. The founder of the Kontras human rights organisation and laureate of the 2000 Right Livelihood Award, Munir was assassinated in 2004 while travelling to Utrecht University to pursue a master's degree in international law and human rights.[2] His last position was executive director of IMPARSIAL, another Indonesian human rights NGO.

Political activist career[edit]

Munir was born into a family of Hadhrami Arab and Javanese origins,[3] from Kathiri. He studied law at Brawijaya University in Malang in the province of East Java, and later started off his career in 1989 as a legal aid officer in the East Java provincial capital, Surabaya. He became one of Indonesia's leading human rights campaigners[4] and faced intimidation, including death threats. He accused the Indonesian military of human rights violations in East Timor and in the troubled provinces of Papua and Aceh, and accused them of running a criminal network involved in illegal tree logging and drug smuggling.

Assassination and aftermath[edit]

Munir was poisoned with arsenic on a flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam on September 7, 2004. He was travelling on state-owned airline Garuda Indonesia. It was concluded from Munir's autopsy and eyewitnesses during the trial, that he had died two hours before arrival in Schiphol, Amsterdam. He took the arsenic during his flight transit in Singapore, or sometime near that time. In Singapore, Pollycarpus Priyanto, the prime suspect in Munir's trial, left the flight and then went back to Indonesia. Originally he departed from Indonesia by deadheading, with a fake document which allowed him to fly on another flight which was not his scheduled flight. Munir began to suffer acute diarrhoea and bouts of vomiting shortly after his flight took off from Singapore to Amsterdam. The cabin crew informed the pilot in command that a passenger was sick, and a doctor who happened to be on the plane was asked to provide medical assistance. However, Munir died around two hours before the plane landed at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport.[5]

When the results of the autopsy were released two months later, on November 12, the Netherlands Forensic Institute revealed that Munir's body contained a level of arsenic almost three times the lethal dose. This was later confirmed by Indonesian police.

There were three suspects; Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, a former pilot who allegedly gave up his business class seat to Munir during the flight, and two flight attendants. It is alleged that Priyanto placed the arsenic in Munir's orange juice, upon orders from Garuda's chief executive at that time, Indra Setiawan. Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono proclaimed that he will make sure that Munir's killers are brought to justice.

In December 2005, Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto was found guilty of Munir's murder by an Indonesian court and sentenced to fourteen years imprisonment. Munir's supporters claim that Priyanto was acting on orders and that this was not brought out during the court case.

In October 2006, the Supreme Court of Indonesia invalidated the conviction against Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, citing insufficient evidence.[2] However, in April 2007, police presented new evidence to prosecutors implicating Priyanto.[6]

In October 2007, Indra Setiawan and his deputy, Rohainil Aini, faced trial for providing Pollycarpus with fake documents to board Munir's flight from Jakarta to Singapore. They would have faced a possible death penalty.[7] They were both convicted and imprisoned for Munir's murder, and have appealed their convictions.[8]

In 2007, a Jakarta court found that Garuda was negligent in refusing to perform an emergency landing, and ordered the company to pay 600,000,000 rupiah in compensation to Munir's widow. When Garuda appealed this decision, the supreme court increased the compensation to an undisclosed amount.[9] Garuda then failed to pay the compensation.[10]

Munir was posthumously awarded the Train Foundation's Civil Courage Prize, which recognizes "extraordinary heroes of conscience".[11]

In 2013 a museum in Malang was opened in his honour.[12]

Personal life[edit]

Munir was married to Suciwati Munir, a labour rights activist at the time. They had two children. His wife is pursuing the investigation of Munir's assassination and works to keep Munir's case and human rights at the centre of Indonesian politics.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b Munir murder conviction quashed BBC News
  3. ^ Komisi Untuk Orang Hilang dan Tindak Kekerasan, Bunuh Munir!: Sebuah Buku Putih (2006) ...Munir, atau lengkapnya Munir bin Thalib dibesarkan dalam keluarga muslim keturunan Arab. Kakek moyangnya adalah imigran dari Hadhramaut (Yaman) yang ratusan...
  4. ^ Ramadhan, Hamzah (10 February 2014). "Munir Museum Brings Human Rights Issues to East Java". Jakarta Globe. Retrieved 31 March 2014. 
  5. ^ "Rights campaigner Munir dies on plane". The Jakarta Post. September 8, 2004. Archived from the original on November 16, 2004. 
  6. ^ "New Munir evidence handed over". Jakarta Post. 2007-04-15. Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2007-04-15. 
  7. ^ Forbes, Mark (2007-10-10). "Ex-Garuda chiefs charged over murder". Sydney Morning Herald. 
  8. ^ "Denied letter, activists to push to reopen Munir case". Jakarta Post. 5 January 2012. Retrieved 6 September 2013. 
  9. ^ "Judicial Commission tells Garuda to pay". Jakarta Post. 20 February 2011. Retrieved 6 September 2013. 
  10. ^ "Court summons Garuda over Munir death compensation". Jakarta Post. 14 June 2011. Retrieved 6 September 2013. 
  11. ^ "Honorees". Civil Courage Prize. 2010. Retrieved 26 May 2011. 
  12. ^ Ayu Pitaloka, Dyah (9 December 2013). "New Museum Brings Munir’s Cases, Death To Public View". Jakarta Globe. Retrieved 31 March 2014. 
  13. ^ Hegarty, Stephanie (24 May 2011). "Indonesian human rights widow fights for justice". BBC. 

External links[edit]