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Trial planned in killing of rights activist


JAKARTA, Indonesia - An airline pilot will be tried in the killing of a prominent Indonesian human rights activist who died of arsenic poisoning while on a flight to Amsterdam, a five-judge panel ruled yesterday.

Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, an off-duty pilot with Garuda Indonesia, is accused of putting poison into Munir Said Thalib's orange juice while the 38-year-old activist was flying from Jakarta to Singapore a year ago on the first leg of a journey to the Netherlands.

Munir was a vocal critic of the Indonesian military and its record of human rights abuses.

A fact-finding commission appointed by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono reported in June that employees of the National Intelligence Agency were implicated in the killing but that some senior officials had not cooperated fully with the investigation.

The presidential panel concluded that Pollycarpus had ties to the intelligence agency and that he repeatedly telephoned an official at the agency's headquarters before and after Munir's death.

No one but Pollycarpus has been charged.

Former intelligence director Abdullah Hendropriyono has denied that the agency, commonly known by its Indonesian acronym BIN, was behind the killing. But he acknowledged that employees could have acted on their own.

"I never ordered the murder," he told the Jakarta Post, an English-language daily. "If it is the work of the institution, I should know. [But] if it's the work of individuals at BIN, then let the legal process proceed."

Prosecutors allege that Pollycarpus put the arsenic into a glass of orange juice, which had been served to him by a flight attendant. He watched as Munir drank the juice, then went to visit with the pilot of the plane, the indictment says.

The flight attendant and a colleague are under investigation.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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