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Indonesia Constitutional Court chief could face 20 years
Publication Date : 04-10-2013
In a major blow to the country’s judicial system, the Corruption Eradication Commission has named Constitutional Court (MK) Chief Justice Akil Mochtar a suspect for allegedly accepting bribes in relation to his role adjudicating disputes in local elections.
Akil was arrested in an intelligence-led operation on Wednesday night at his official residence as he accepted cash from the regent of Gunung Mas, Central Kalimantan, Hambit Bintih, and a Palangkaraya-based businessman identified as Cornelius Nalau.
The alleged bribe was for Akil to deliver a verdict in favor of Hambit, whose electoral-dispute case is currently being tried at the MK.
Besides Akil, the KPK investigators, led by Comr. Novel Baswedan, also detained Chairun Nisa, a member of the House of Representatives from the Golkar Party and treasurer of the Indonesian Ulema Council. Chairun was named a suspect for accepting S$284,050 and $22,000 in cash.
“AM and CN have been named as suspects for receiving [the bribes]. They are charged with violating Article 12 of Law No.31/1999 on corruption,” KPK chairman Abraham Samad told a press conference at the KPK’s headquarters in Kuningan, South Jakarta.
The article carries a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment.
In a separate case, Akil was also named a suspect for allegedly accepting 1 billion rupiah ($88,500) in bribes from Tubagus Chaeri Wardana, husband of South Tangerang Mayor Airin Rachmy Diani and brother of current Banten Governor Ratu Atut Chosiyah.
The bribe was allegedly paid in relation to a case involving a local election dispute in Lebak regency, Banten. The MK had decided in favor of the plaintiff, Lebak Deputy Regent Amir Hamzah, who had lost the election to Iti Octavia, and mandated a revote. Amir was nominated by the Golkar Party.
KPK deputy chairman Bambang Widjojanto claimed that the alleged bribe in the Lebak case was probably a form of commitment fee for Akil.
“AM has still denied [receiving bribes],” he said.
Bambang said the KPK might well name other suspects in the future as the investigators suspected that Tubagus was not working alone.
The arrest of Akil has sent shockwaves through the country’s judicial system with some politicians calling for the death penalty for Akil.
Former Constitutional Court chief justice Jimly Asshiddiqie said that Akil deserved to receive the death sentence because he had disgraced the country’s highest judicial institution.
“His position is above any ministers, he is also a repository of the law. He must be given the most severe punishment. Don’t put him in jail, he would only make the prison more crowded,” Jimly said.
The arrest of Akil also brought into question the impartiality of previous decisions by the court in adjudicating election disputes, including the most recent gubernatorial elections in East Java and Bali.
Chairman of the Judicial Commission (KY) Suparman Marzuki revealed that the commission had received a report that plaintiffs in some local election dispute cases, heard at the MK between 2011 and 2012, had won after paying bribes.
“We could not follow up the cases as we are only authorised to monitor judges and Supreme Court justices, not Constitutional Court justices.”
Suparman said, “Akil’s name was one mentioned in the report.”
Three years ago, the MK’s ethics panel heard a complaint about bribery allegations leveled against then justice Arsyad Sanusi and Akil. Arsyad asked for early retirement but Akil remained in the MK after being cleared of all charges.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said he was shocked by the arrest of Akil. “This is very shocking, especially given the importance of the Constitutional Court as an institution and the key role it plays for the country,” he told the press.
Yudhoyono said that the arrest of Akil could put the country’s democracy at risk. “Imagine if the [court’s] rulings are invalid. Imagine if there were violations involving the rulings. Even if there are no violations, the wrong legal-and-binding rulings could have a major impact on our nationhood [and] undermine our democracy,” he said.