Wed, 09 Mar 2005

Cops quiz Garuda staff again over Munir case

Eva C. Komandjaja, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Police investigators questioned four Garuda Indonesia stewardesses on Tuesday and were scheduled to question another airline employee, Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, on Thursday as part of their investigation into the murder of top human rights activist Munir.

Head of the investigating team, Sr. Comr. Anton Charlian, told reporters on Tuesday that the four stewardesses were the ones who had served food and beverages to Munir, who is believed to have been poisoned by arsenic during a flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam on Sept. 7 of last year.

Munir was found dead two hours before his plane landed at Schipol airport in Amsterdam. An autopsy conducted by the Dutch authorities found excessive amounts of arsenic in his body, strongly indicating that he had been murdered. It appeared likely that the poison was administered during the trip from Jakarta to Singapore.

According to the results of the police investigation to date, Munir consumed fried noodles, steak, some fruit and orange juice so that the poison must have been added to one of them.

The stewardess and other cabin crew members, including Pollycarpus, a Garuda pilot who was assigned as the aviation security officer on board the plane, have been questioned by the police before, but the police decided to question them again following statements by the government-sanctioned fact-finding team that members of the Garuda crew might have been involved in the murder.

"We will also question Pollycarpus here on Thursday and he will be accompanied by psychologists as he talked nonsense during a meeting with members of the House of Representatives last night," Anton said.

On Monday night, Pollycarpus was questioned by an investigating team set up by the House of Representatives but he claimed that he did not know and did not remember anything about the Sept. 7 flight, even the time when the plane took off and landed.

Anton also mentioned the possibility that the police would use a lie detector to test Pollycarpus' statements, although the results of a polygraph test were not admissible in evidence here.

Elsewhere, he said that the police were seeking ways to obtain the necessary assistance from the Netherlands authorities in resolving case.

"We have had a lot of difficulties already in investigating the case since we were not in charge of the crime scene and the Dutch police did not want to discuss the case with us, even informally," Anton claimed.

Previously, the Director of Transnational Security, Brig. Gen. Pranowo Dahlan, said that the Netherlands wanted a mutual legal assistance agreement signed between the two countries before Indonesian investigators could do any investigative work there.

"From what I've heard, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have sent the draft three times to the Dutch authorities. We hope that the assistance agreement can be signed soon so that it will be easier for us to do our job," Anton said.

He added that the police would also question three experts on aviation law on Wednesday about whether the Dutch police should have been or should not have been permitted to board the plane and investigate the crime scene even though the plane was an Indonesian plane and the victim was an Indonesian citizen.