Widow of murdered activist calls for probe into alleged role of spy agency

The widow of a murdered Indonesian rights activist called Wednesday for a stepped up probe into allegations that the man convicted in his poisoning death had links to the state intelligence agency. The U.S. State Department also urged investigations into the killing of Munir Thalib to continue, and asked the government to publicly release the results of an independent fact-finding team into the murder.

On Tuesday, a court convicted off-duty pilot Pollycarpus Priyanto of putting a fatal dose of arsenic in food served to Thalib as he flew to Amsterdam on state-owned airline Garuda Indonesia.

In their verdict, judges said Priyanto killed Munir because of his vocal criticism of rights abuses by the military and the government. They also said that the killer had received many calls from a phone registered to a senior intelligence agent ahead of the murder in September 2004, but did not elaborate. They too urged police to continue their investigation.

"The verdict does not answer my questions," said Suciwati Thalib, whose campaign for justice in the case has taken her all over the world. "Now investigators must work hard to uncover (the link to the state intelligence agency)," she said in an interview.

The fact-finding team, established on the orders of the president, also revealed phone records showing calls between Priyanto and a phone registered to the agent, Muchdi Purwopranjo, according to members of the team. Purwopranjo testified at Priyanto's trial that someone borrowed his phone to make the calls.

The intelligence agency refused to speak to the fact-finding team. The results of its probe have never been formally released to the public. The investigation into Thalib's killing is seen as a test of how much Indonesia has changed since the days of the Suharto dictatorship, when state-sponsored killings were common and military and police officers were largely above the law.

The case attracted international attention, with the U.S. House of Representatives and the European Union parliament among those calling for justice. In a statement, the U.S. State Department said it was "heartened by the court's call for further investigation into this crime."

"We encourage Indonesia to release publicly the fact-finding team's report and to take appropriate law enforcement measures against any persons implicated in the crime," the statement said.

Thalib, 38, rose to prominence during the tail end of Suharto's regime, and went on to probe killings by Indonesian troops during East Timor's bloody struggle for independence, and military-led violence in the separatist-troubled provinces of Papua and Aceh. The tireless campaigner also co-founded the human rights group Imparsial, which is dedicated to helping victims of state-sponsored abuse and torture, and said he often received death threats, reports the AP. I.L.

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