Arrest of Constitutional Court Chief Justice Is a National Disgrace, Experts Say

Akil Mochtar is seen on August 13, 2013 being inaugurated to the Constitutional Court. (Photo courtesy of the State Palace)

Akil Mochtar is seen on August 13, 2013 being inaugurated to the Constitutional Court. (Photo courtesy of the State Palace)

Indonesian legal experts and activists are calling the Wednesday arrest of Constitutional Court chief justice Akil Mochtar over allegations of bribery a devastating slap in the face to the image of the country’s judiciary system.

“What Akil did was such a disgrace,” said former Constitutional Court Chief Justice Jimly Asshiddiqqie. The alleged graft would taint the court’s reputation as one of the country’s cleanest institutions, he said.

Emerson Yuntho, a coordinator at Indonesia Corruption Watch, said that Akil’s arrest highlighted the fact that corruption had infiltrated all levels of the central government.

“[Akil’s] arrest is a constitutional disaster,” he told the Jakarta Globe on Thursday.

Jimy said that prosecutors should demand the death sentence when the case is brought to court.

“The chief of the Constitutional Court is [one of the nation’s] highest positions,” he told Indonesian news portal Republika.co.id. “A death sentence will give a deterrent effect.”

Akil was arrested by Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) investigators on Wednesday night along with four other people, including Chairun Nisa, a lawmaker from the Golkar Party.

They were arrested at Akil’s house in the ministerial Widya Chandra housing complex in South Jakarta and in a hotel in Central Jakarta.

KPK spokesman Johan Budi said on Thursday that investigators found a paper bag containing an estimated Rp 3 billion ($261,000) in Singapore and United States dollars at the housing complex. The KPK also confiscated a white Toyota Fortuner that Chairun and one other person had allegedely driven to Akil’s house.

Johan said earlier that the alleged bribery was connected to a disputed election for the district head of Gunung Mas in Central Kalimantan — a case which the Constitutional Court was handling.

The KPK also arrested Gunung Mas district head Hambit Bintih and another person, identified only as Dhani, at a separate location.

Akil, 62, began serving as a Constitutional Court judge in 2008, before replacing his predecessor Mahfud MD as chief justice in April.

Mahfud said that the arrest will definitely take a toll on the court’s image. However, he added that since the court is based on the country’s 1945 Constitution, the remaining eight justices must work harder to prove to the public that the institution is free of influence by the “judicial mafia.”

Mahfud recommended that his former colleague step down from his position.

“Even though the case has no legal status yet and the [court’s] ethical council has not made any decision, it is better for him to resign,” Mahfud told Indonesian news channel Metro TV on Thursday.

The eight remaining judges held an emergency meeting during the early hours of Thursday morning to discuss Akil’s arrest and other internal court issues.

Of the nine justices on the court, three are selected by the Supreme Court, three by the House of Representatives and three by the president. Justices serve five-year terms. With its chief absent, the court will continue to function, with the role of presiding judge rotating between the remaining members.

In the instance of a four-four split, the presiding judge on the case in question would make the final decision.

Akil and the other five people are still being questioned by investigators.

KPK chief Abraham Samad said Akil’s status will be determined after an intensive round of interrogation.

“We will wait for 24 hours. We have not decided [his legal status] yet because we are still questioning him,” he said.

Meanwhile, Emerson urged the country’s antigraft body to also look into other bribe cases that Akil was allegedly involved in.

“The KPK must go through all of Akil’s allegations in these other cases,” he said.

In 2010, Akil allegedly extorted Jopinus Ramli Saragih, the Simalungun District chief in North Sumatra, for Rp 1 billion over a regional election dispute in the Constitutional Court. Akil denied ever taking the money.

Mahfud reported the case to the KPK at the time. However, Mahfud reported two attorneys representing Jopinus who allegedly tried to bribe constitutional court judges — Refly Harun and Maheswara Prabandono — and not Akil. JG

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