Tue, 08 Mar 2005

Prosecutors seek eight years for Abdullah Puteh

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Prosecutors have demanded an eight years term of imprisonment and a Rp 500 million (US$53,673) fine for Abdullah Puteh, the suspended Aceh governor, who is on trial on corruption charges related to the purchase of a Russian-made MI-2 helicopter.

Three prosecutors from the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) on Monday took turns in reading out a 237-page indictment in the Anticorruption Court, Central Jakarta, saying that they had proven the defendant guilty of an attempt to amass personal wealth.

They said Puteh intended to amass wealth for himself by putting money belonging to the provincial government into his personal account, arguing that it was to speed up a helicopter purchase transaction.

"Your Honor, the defendant carried out the crime in a conflict area. He perpetrated the crime while the central government was seriously trying to curb rampant corruption in the country and he damaged the image of the civil service," chief prosecutor Khaidir Ramli said.

Puteh has been charged with marking up the price of a Russian helicopter he purchased on behalf of the provincial administration, that caused losses to the state of at least Rp 10 billion (US$1.1 million).

Apart from demanding eight years imprisonment and a Rp 500 million fine or an additional six months in prison, the prosecutors also asked judges to order Puteh to recompense the state Rp 10 billion to cover state losses within one month of the court announcing its verdict. In the event that the defendant was unable to pay, his punishment should be extended by an additional year in jail.

The State Audit Agency (BPK) has said that Puteh caused Rp 13.6 billion in losses to the state, but that he had returned Rp 3.6 billion of the money to the Aceh provincial treasury before the trial began.

Prosecutors charged Puteh with violating Article 2 and 3 of Law No.31/1999 on anticorruption, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years, or a Rp 1 billion fine.

Yessi Esmiralda, one of the prosecutors, said that eight years was being demanded because of mitigating factors, such as the fact that Puteh had served as a government official since 1967.

Puteh was also accused of misusing his power by cutting Rp 700 million from the budgets of 13 cities and regencies. Of the Rp 12.6 billion used to buy the chopper, Rp 9.1 billion came from city and regency budgets and Rp 3.5 billion from the provincial budget.

Puteh later responded as he was being taken out of the courtroom, saying he felt disappointed that the prosecutors had "misunderstood the facts and testimony" given at the trial.

"It is clear that the prosecutors do not understand how the provincial administration and private companies cooperate," he added.

The courtroom was thronged with members of the Indonesian National Youth Committee (KNPI), the Batavia Communication Forum (Forkabi), and several Acehnese living in Jakarta, all of whom voiced their support for Puteh.

"We are here to give moral support to Bang Puteh because he led KNPI in the 1980's," said a man wearing the organization's official blue jacket. (006)





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