Death on Flight 974

Munir Said Thalib had more enemies than he could count. The 38-year-old founder of Kontras, a hard-charging human-rights watchdog, had challenged just about every powerful institution in Indonesia: the military, intelligence agencies, and government bureaus and big businesses suspected of corrupt practices. In his six years with Kontras, Munir received numerous death threats. In 2003, someone threw a bomb at his house in Jakarta, although it caused no damage.

But Munir was leaving all of that behind, at least temporarily, when he arrived at Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta International Airport on the evening of Sept. 6. A Dutch university had...