Pilot May Face Death Penalty

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In one of the creepier stories about activities aloft to come along in a while, a pilot for Garuda Indonesia was arrested last week and charged in the death of a human-rights activist who was poisoned with arsenic while on a flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam last September. If convicted, the pilot could face the death penalty. The pilot was a passenger on that flight, and has said he was traveling on airline business. However, investigators have disputed that and accused the airline of a cover-up. The pilot's lawyer says his client was set up, and there is a conspiracy at work. The murder victim, Munir, 38, had provided legal counsel for victims of officially sanctioned violence during a repressive 32-year rule that ended in 1998. The top management of Garuda, which is Indonesia's national carrier, has recently been overhauled, as the airline struggles to cope with aging aircraft, crushing debt, and top-heavy bureaucracy. The publicity over the murder investigation has further damaged the airline's image.