Indonesian police arrest 2 anti-graft body deputies

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Two suspended deputies of Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission were arrested Thursday in a graft case that has complicated President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s drive for clean governance.

Police named Chandra Hamzah and Bibit Rianto as suspects last month for allegedly abusing their power to issue travel bans against people being probed for corruption. Yudhoyono suspended them on Sept. 21 and they had remained free as long as they reported their whereabouts to police.

Yudhoyono, who began his second five-year term last week, has pledged to accelerate his drive against corruption to attract investors to Indonesia. The police investigations into officers of the KPK, as the graft body is known, have prompted calls from anti-corruption activists and the public urging the president to defend the body.

The KPK “has unraveled the web involving business people, politicians and some officials in the government,” said Febri Diansyah, a researcher at the Indonesian Corruption Watch, a non-governmental anti-graft group. “We want the president to find what’s behind the case against” Hamzah and Rianto, he said. Police have denied the probe is meant to weaken the KPK.

KPK and its partner, the Corruption Crimes Court, were formed less than six years ago as an alternative to pursuing cases through Indonesia’s regular justice system. Since Yudhoyono’s election to a first term in 2004, the special agencies have convicted legislators, governors and policemen.

No intervention

The president said in a live televised address Friday he won’t intervene in the case.

“If I stop this process, this will ruin the system and justice will be ripped apart,” Yudhoyono said. “I won’t explain why they’re in detention. I don’t know. I have asked the police chief to explain the reasons to the public.”

Hamzah and Rianto have “disturbed the investigation with their media appearances,” Ketut Yoga Ana, a spokesman at the national police headquarters, said in a phone interview earlier Friday. “The media should not become a tribunal. If they had problems with the investigation, they should’ve brought them straight to the police, not to the public.”

Hamzah and Rianto held media briefings at the KPK office in the past month to deny the allegations against them and criticize how police handled the case. Under Indonesian law, police can arrest a suspect and hold him until the case reaches court if investigators deem the person can flee or tamper with evidence.

“I have never asked anyone to detain or release a person,” said Yudhoyono. The current status of the KPK deputies are “nothing unique” in the process of a legal investigation, he said.

‘Mistreating people’

“The president is very concerned with opinions that have been building up saying as if the government is mistreating people,” Communications Minister Tifatul Sembiring told reporters Friday after meeting with Yudhoyono.

Yudhoyono’s anti-graft campaign “hinges on the achievements of the KPK and the corruption court,” Teten Masduki, secretary general of Transparency International’s Indonesian branch, said Sept. 30.

Source: Bloomberg

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