Indonesian anti-corruption chief convicted of murder

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Friday, February 12, 2010

The KPK supporter who painted this graffiti mural in Jakarta poses a stark question; "do you want to eradicate corruption or eradicate the KPK?"
Image: Davidelit.

An Indonesian court has convicted the former head of the country's anti-corruption agency of murder. The prosecution of Antasari Azhar and three others has been controversial, with some fearing the so-called "Judicial Mafia" played a role.

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) already saw a proven plot to discredit it and frame its senior members. Shortly after Azhar's arrest in May last year police came to take away Bibit Rianto and Chandra Hamzah, two deputy commissioners, to face trial for corruption. The trial, instead, unveiled a plot to convict the men of offences they had not committed. Protests in the street ensued, and locals gave corrupt officials the joint nickname of the "Judicial Mafia".

The scandal resulted in the resignations of a chief detective and a deputy attorney general; the KPK had begun probing the attorney general's office and that of the national police. During Azhar's time as chair the KPK has exposed bribery at the former and prosecuted an in-law relative of the president during the country's election preparations, with a jail sentence being the result.

The defendants had claimed political elements orchestrated a conspiracy to see the quartet convicted. The judges disagreed, with judge Herri Swantoro telling the court, "Defendant Antasari Azhar has been legitimately proven guilty of participating in persuading the carrying out of a premeditated murder." The court's judgement ran to 179 pages.

The case saw the four accused of plotting the March 2009 murder of tycoon Nasruddin Zulkarnaen, shot dead in his car by a motorbike assassin in Jakarta. Zulkarnaen was Azhar's golfing partner and the businessman was alleged by the prosecution to have been blackmailing the KPK leader, who is a former prosecutor.

Azhar is alleged to have had an affair with one of Zulkarnaen's wives, a golf caddie. With Zulkarnaen threatening to inform the press and parliament, Azhar is alleged to have plotted murder with several other officials. Police commissioner Wiliardi Wizar was accused of locating the assassins used; he claimed his senior had ordered him to testify he had been told by Azhar to kill Zulkarnaen.

Media mogul Sigid Haryo Wibisono stood accused of financing the contract killing, and businessman Jerry Hermawan Lo of arranging a meeting with the gunmen. All three were convicted alongside Azhar, who received an eighteen-year prison sentence. Wizar was jailed for twelve years, Wibisono for fifteen and Lo for five. All intend to appeal the verdicts.

One person who feels the court got it wrong is a human rights lawyer who defended Bibit and Chandra. "I think that this is all still a mystery," said Taufik Basari. "I don't think the judge had all the necessary facts to warrant a verdict of eighteen years."

Despite the conviction of his relative, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono retained the presidency last June by a landslide majority. Originally elected in 2004, Yudhoyono has used an anti-corruption stance in his campaigns, heaping praise upon the KPK which Azhar was head of from December 2007 until his arrest.

The four new convicts join five men convicted of the murder in December. Alleged to have comprised the gang behind the shooting, they received sentences varying from seventeen to eighteen years imprisonment.


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