Thu, 10 Jul 2003

Court begins hearing on Tommy's sentence review

Agus Maryono, The Jakarta Post, Cilacap, Central Java

Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra, the youngest son of former president Soeharto, appeared in the Cilacap District Court, Central Java, on Wednesday, asking for a review of his 15-year jail sentence for ordering the execution of a Supreme Court justice.

As usual, Tommy, a prisoner of the Batu Penitentiary on Nusakambangan island south of Cilacap, arrived at the court amid tight security provided by his bodyguards and police.

He was looking healthy and relaxed.

At the hearing, Tommy's lawyers John Kennedy Aziz and Dwi Sarjono presented five witnesses who, according to the lawyers, had 13 new pieces of evidence favoring Tommy.

The witnesses were a cleaning boy at the Cemara Apartments, Asep Sarifudin, Cemara Apartment manager Beni M. Robani, PT Mampang Nugraha Prima staff member Renaldi, housemaid Slamet Sukma Jaya, and forensic expert Abdul Munim Idris of the University of Indonesia.

The new evidence is expected to cast doubt on the presence of weapons at Tommy's apartment and the discovery of hair at the house that was not Tommy's.

Presiding Judge Ahmad Judhi said after the hearing that it would lodge a report with the Central Jakarta District Court, which will hear the case.

"It seems there is new evidence, but the Central Jakarta District Court will make a decision in the case (before passing it to the Supreme Court)," Ahmad said.

State prosecutor Hasan Madani, meanwhile, told reporters that all witnesses had testified at the previous trial, except expert doctor Munim.

"There is no new evidence," he said.

The trial was adjourned until July 14 to hear from the state prosecutor, but the next hearing would be held at the Central Jakarta District Court, where Tommy was jailed in August 2002 for ordering the murder of Justice Syafiuddin Kartasasmita in 2001.

Tommy has not appealed until now.

But last week, Tommy's lawyers lodged court documents calling for a judicial review of his sentence at the Central Jakarta District Court.

The court then requested the Cilacap District Court hear Tommy's case for security reasons.

The judges were not required to rule on the matter, but to pass the papers to the Supreme Court, which will decide.

Legal observers have warned of flaws in the Tommy verdict that could lead to the Supreme Court overturning it.

One of the loopholes was the fact that police failed to secure a court warrant before seizing firearms and ammunition believed to belong to Tommy.

Under the prevailing law, evidence is inadmissible if it is obtained without a warrant.

Legal experts also said that Tommy's absence during the delivery of the verdict was another mistake that might influence the ruling on appeal, or serve as a tactic to gain time for "negotiations" that could lead to the verdict's annulment.