New Museum Brings Munir’s Cases, Death To Public View

Activists and artists gathered at Aun-alun Batu, East Java on Dec. 2, 2012 to commemorate the 47th birthday of slain activist Munir Said Thalib. Nine years after his death, the circumstances of his death remain unexplained and the identities of the killers are a mystery yet to be solved. (JG Photo/ Arif Furqan)

Activists and artists gathered at Aun-alun Batu, East Java on Dec. 2, 2012 to commemorate the 47th birthday of slain activist Munir Said Thalib. Nine years after his death, the circumstances of his death remain unexplained and the identities of the killers are a mystery yet to be solved. (JG Photo/ Arif Furqan)

Malang, East Java. A museum built in honor of Munir Said Thalib, a prominent human rights activist assassinated in 2004, was officially opened on Sunday on what would have been his 48th birthday, featuring items belonging to him as well as those related to his still unresolved death and cases he was working on.

“We continue to fight the case regarding his death,” Suciwati, Munir’s widow, said at the opening of the Omah Munir Museum in Malang, East Java, in a building that used to be the couple’s home.

Visitors can see Munir’s personal effects, such as a pair of battered brown sneakers, bulletproof vests, and a desk he used when he worked at the Surabaya Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Surabaya), where he first began his career in the fight for justice and human rights.

A human rights causes championed by Munir are also displayed on a wall inside the museum. The cases include the murder of three farmers in Madura, East Java, in 1993; the murder of female labor activist Marsinah in 1994; and advocacy for victims of human rights abuses by the military in East Timor in 1992.

“There has been no enforcement of human rights, and the cases presented here are a symbol of how rotten our court system is,” Suciwati said.

Munir’s own death was no less controversial than the cases he took on. The activist was poisoned with arsenic on board a Garuda Indonesia flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam, via Singapore, on Sept. 7, 2004. Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, an off-duty Garuda pilot, was convicted of the murder in 2005. But the ruling was overturned in 2006 for insufficient evidence, before being reinstated in 2008.

Munir’s supporters, however, contend that Pollycarpus was just a pawn in the scheme, and that the real masterminds behind the plot were never touched.

In 2008, State Intelligence Agency (BIN) deputy chairman Muchdi Purwoprandjono went on trial for allegedly ordering the murder, but was later acquitted.

Muchdi was said to have held a grudge against Munir after being dismissed as the head of the Army Special Forces (Kopassus) in the wake of revelations by the activist that Kopassus had abducted 13 student activists during the upheaval of 1997-1998.

Suciwati said she hoped the new museum would prompt renewed public scrutiny into Munir’s death and the unresolved cases he was working on.

“We will keep trying to uncover the truth behind Munir’s murder, no matter who is involved.” she said.