Jakarta – On October 22, 2004, AM Hendropriyono resigned from his position as National Intelligence Agency (BIN) chief. He only held the position for three years after being inaugurated on August 10, 2001.
In an interview with CNN Indonesia on Wednesday February 15, Hendropriyono claims that the reason for his resignation at the time was in the context of the death of renowned human rights defender Munir Said Thalib on September 7, 2004. Munir died of arsenic poisoning on a Garuda Indonesia flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam.
He claims to have been shocked by news of Munir's death, especially after the incident was repeatedly linked with BIN. He also chose to resign from BIN so that he would not be seen as obstructing the investigation into Munir's murder.
"Out of the blue there was a news report that the deceased (Munir's) was dead. Wow, how could this have happened. Reading the news report gave me a stomach ache, there was a lot of speculation. Because it wasn't logical. Then, why was it directed at BIN. Wow, so I just resigned as head of BIN. My intention was so that there would be no point of dilemma. Because if I was the head of BIN, then if there was an investigation I would be seen as obstructing it. That would not be good. If I left, I'd be an ordinary person. Please, go ahead and investigate", said Hendropriyono.
Hendropriyono still remembers the situation after Munir's death, when there was a huge uproar. He claims he was anxious if it turned out that one of his BIN subordinates had carried out the murder.
"The uproar was extraordinary. I was horrified. My heart was also pounding. I was afraid that maybe the murderer was a BIN person. I would have at least been morally responsible", he said.
However, he said, later on the name of Garuda Indonesia pilot Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto was reputedly cited as the killer. He asserted that he was not acquainted with Priyanto at all. According to Hendropriyono, Priyanto was a BIN informant, but not part of the formal BIN structure.
"I didn't know him. I didn't know him at all, I never even heard his name. I only knew about him from the newspapers", he said.
In 2005 a panel of judges at the Central Jakarta District Court found Priyanto guilty of Munir's murder and sentenced him to 14 years in prison. Former BIN Deputy IV, Muchdi Pr, was also alleged to have been involved in Munir's death. He was later tried by a court but in the end found not guilty.
Hendropriyono also claims to have felt relieved when Muchdi was found not guilty. He believes that the issue of his connection with Munir's death was just a wild assumption that continued to do the rounds. He stated that he never killed or ordered another person to kill Munir.
"It was just an assumption, right. Don't let it be like that. Prove it, we have laws. If we don’t trust the law, then who do we trust? But I really don’t have a mind as bestial as that to murder an innocent person", he said. (tsa/tsa)
Renowned human rights defender Munir died of arsenic poisoning onboard a Garuda Indonesia flight on September 7, 2004. Although off-duty pilot Pollycarpus Priyanto was convicted of the murder in 2005, the alleged mastermind behind the assassination, former National Intelligence Agency (BIN) deputy Muchdi Purwoprandjono, was later acquitted of all charges. Also implicated in the murder but never investigated was former BIN chief AM Hendropriyono. Hendropriyono, a close ally of Megawati Sukarnoputri – the chairperson of President Joko Widodo's ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) – was cited in US diplomatic cables leaked in 2011 as being involved in the planning of Munir's murder.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Hendropriyono Mundur Usai Kasus Munir: Agar Tak Ada Dilema".]