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Abdullah Makhmud Hendropriyono: Munir was not a target  
A visitor views paintings of Munir in an exhibition held to mark the tenth anniversary of Munir's death at the Diponegoro University (9/9). Munir Said Thalib, a human rights activist and an outspoken critic of Indonesia's military, died of arsenic poisoning while on board a Garuda flight to Amsterdam in 2004. WF Sihardian/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images
Friday, 12 December, 2014 | 15:26 WIB
Abdullah Makhmud Hendropriyono: Munir was not a target  

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The office of the Mega Maroci Lines shipping company at the Menara Kuningan building in South Jakarta is guarded by a sophisticated security system. Last Tuesday, after Tempo interviewed Abdullah Mahmud Hendropriyono, CEO of Mega Maroci, he pressed his thumb to the sensor, which immediately showed his initials 'AMH' and the wooden door to his office opened up.

Business and politics are two major activities of Hendropriyono after he retired from his job as director of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) at the end of 2004. At the end of his three-year term as leader of BIN, pro-democracy activist Munir Said Thalib was mysteriously killed by arsenic poisoning. Some indications point to BIN's involvement in the crime and since then, Hendropriyono's name has always been linked to that incident.

His deputy, Muchdi Purwoprandjono, was later tried in court but found not guilty. A few of his staff were also summoned as witnesses. One of them, Sentot, who in 2004 was head of BIN's operations, is now a director at Mega Maroci Lines.

Hendropriyono recently served as advisor to President Jokowi's transition team. As in previous interviews, he denied all charges against him. Excerpts of his interview with Tempo:

Your name is always linked to Munir's murder.

I consider the problem solved because at the base of it all is the law, not the comments of an analyst. If we don't trust in the law, what else can we rely on?


Is it true you said you were ready to take responsibility for this case?

I must be responsible for everything that I experience, that I do and things I didn't do but should have done. If Munir's killer had been a BIN person, I would be morally responsible, not operationally responsible. The responsibility of a commander only applies during a war situation: if one of my men is killed, I will be directly responsible. In a peace situation, if one of my men kills someone while I was sleeping, must I still be responsible?


What was the situation like in 2004? Were there threats?

There were no threats although the presidential election was just around the corner. Legal cases were open. One of my men, Muchdi Pr., was brought to trial. That means we are open and in the end he was set free because the case lacked strong evidence.


Did you know Munir?

I met him twice. The first time was during a discussion at Trijaya radio station. After it was over, I was asked to speak on human rights at BIN. Then, I met him at the home of Ibu Megawati Soekarnoputri. He was close to PDI Perjuangan (Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle).


Was Munir a target of BIN because he was seen as an enemy of the state?

I don't understand how people see Munir as a national target. I'm not an intel-come-lately. Someone like Munir is not a threat. And it's also untrue that his death was engineered.


Budi Santoso testified that a meeting at BIN concluded Munir was about to sell out the state and this must be stopped…

Maybe he led the meeting (laughing). Budi is an echelon II (employee). I've forgotten what he was like. Furthermore, we are unlikely to be discussing one person at a BIN meeting.


Did you know that BIN Deputy Chief As'ad Ali assigned Pollycarpus to guard a Garuda flight?

I have never seen or read the letter. I asked Pak As'ad and he also didn't know anything about it. He admitted there was such a letter but that he never signed it.


That letter was extracted from Muchdi's computer.

I don't know about that. In court, it seems to have gone in Muchdi's direction. I was a bit tense. If it was true Muchdi was involved, I could be affected.


Were assignments of BIN agents recorded?

No. What is written down are the spending and allocation of funds, but the name of the activity is never mentioned, only the cost of operations.


Were you aware that Pollycarpus was a BIN agent?

I have never met him. I thought he was Ambonese, because of his name. I was also shocked at being reported by the media that I intervened to have him released.


In your view, why was Munir killed?

I don't know.


Was Munir's death the work of an intelligence agent?

If it was the intelligence agency, it would be shameful on how it was done.


What do you mean?

That was the most stupid way. A poisoned victim is bound to be opened up and the arsenic would be exposed.


How should it have been done?

Like the mysterious shootings during the era of Pak Benny Moerdani. Intel agents went to jail, looking for people who had previously killed two or three times. They would be released from prison and asked to list their friends but that agent is the person who kills them later on. Some are loaned pistols but most of them use sharp objects like machetes. After the killing, they report to their chief of intelligence. Their operations are checked. If it's true all are dead, only then will the agent kill the thugs who helped him. The bodies will be discarded in the deep sea. So, out of so many people [recruited] to kill, the agency would only kill one person. No matter how smart the investigator, he would not be able to find out about such an operation. (*)


Read the full interview in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine


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