Fri, 29 Dec 2000

Criminal justice system a farce in year 2000

By Yogita Tahil Ramani

JAKARTA (JP): There is relief that the blindfolded lady of justice with a scale in hand, is a statue.

"It's good that she's a statue. Had she been alive, she would have opted for death than living here," Agus, who does the paperwork on verdicts issued by the Central Jakarta District Court for criminal and civil cases, laughingly told The Jakarta Post late last week.

This sentiment is a telling statement of the roles that Indonesian judges, lawyers and prosecutors play year after year to shape the law according to their convenience.

One of the worst trial outcomes in 2000 fell on Aug. 28 with the acquittal of Djoko S. Tjandra, whose firm PT Era Giat Prima (EGP) managed to acquire Rp 546 billion (US$5.6 million) from Bank Bali via the central bank, in exchange for doing nothing to help recoup the bank's interbank loans from closed Bank BDNI.

Although former Bank Bali deputy chairman Firman Soetdjadja had testified in court that Djoko Tjandra was involved in the scandal, nothing good came out of the trial.

Judge Soedarto of the South Jakarta District Court pointed his fingers at prosecutor Antasari Azhar for producing no proof in the case. But, Antasari in turn was later promoted to head the South Jakarta Prosecutor's Office.

Like Djoko, former Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency (IBRA) deputy chairman Pande Nasorahona Lubis was also acquitted on Nov. 23 in connection with the scandal.

In September, the same district court dismissed the $571 million dollar graft trial against former president Soeharto, 79, after declaring the ill defendant "permanently unfit" for trial.

It had just failed to matter to presiding judge Lalu Mariyun, or any other judge in the Soeharto trial panel, that this year the Medan District Court in North Sumatra had sentenced former Langkat Regent, a very ill 56-year-old Zulkipli Harahap who could not attend his own trial hearings, to a 10-month jail term over a Rp 5.6 billion graft case.

The most painful aspect of the Soeharto trial was not its dismissal, which was expected, but the death of 10 people, which occurred 20 hours before the initial hearing of the trial on Sept. 14. The victims were either burned or suffocated to death, after an explosive device blasted the parking lots of the Jakarta Stock Exchange (JSX) building in South Jakarta.

All this occurred while incumbent President Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid was allegedly implicated in at least two financial scandals, namely the withdrawal of Rp 35 billion belonging to a State Logistics Agency (Bulog) foundation and the misuse of a $2 million donation from Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.

Prosecutor Nulis Sembiring, who prosecuted former Bulog deputy chief, Sapuan, the primary defendant of the case, however, had insisted on not summoning Gus Dur, despite the formal order issued by Judge Lalu Mariyun.

Yet, some judges and prosecutors had also acted in compliance with the majority of the people's sense for justice.

The Central Jakarta District Court threw out a defamation libel suit on June 6 lodged by Soeharto against U.S.-based Time weekly, over an article published in the magazine last year which alleged that the long-time authoritarian had amassed huge amounts of money.

"Any reports in the media over alleged corruption, collusion and nepotism (KKN) by state officials and their families, must be accepted as a need in the current reform era, as long as the reports don't violate human rights and the presumption of innocence principle," said presiding judge Sihol Sitompul while reading the verdict during the hearing.

After the South Jakarta District Court judges threw out the $571 million dollar graft trial against Soeharto on Sept. 28, Judge Gde Soedharta of the Jakarta High Court overturned on Nov. 8 the district court's verdict to cease the corruption trial against the former president.

Meanwhile, fresh out of excuses for not jailing a Soeharto family member over a crime committed, the West Jakarta District Court sentenced Soeharto's granddaughter-in-law Gusti Maya Firanti Noor, 29, to eight months in prison and fined her Rp 15 million ($1,720) for possessing a small amount of shabu-shabu (crystal methamphetamine), on Oct. 12.

Soeharto's daughter, Siti Hutami Endang Adiningsih, also walked out of the Central Jakarta District Court on Dec. 18, after Judge Asep Iwan Irawan sentenced her to a 30-day probation period for failing to report the loss of her gun.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court sentenced Tommy to 18 months in prison on Sept. 26 for his involvement in a Rp 95.4 billion land exchange deal with the State Logistics Agency (Bulog) in 1995. But, he went missing one day after President Abdurrahman rejected his proposal for a presidential pardon on Nov. 2.

Similar efforts to uphold justice were made last August by former justice Adi Andojo Sutjipto, who is chief of the government-appointed Joint Team to Eradicate Corruption, by naming three Supreme Court justices as suspects in a bribery case.

The suspects, identified as retired justice M. Yahya Harahap and active justices Supraptini Sutarto and Marnis Kahar, allegedly accepted a Rp 196 million cash bribe while handling a land dispute case in 1998, Adi said.

But, Judge Rusman Dani Achmad of the South Jakarta District Court ordered Adi to stop his investigation into the case.

Adi went on to investigate similar cases, and it was revealed in late November that his team had questioned a senior Supreme Court official over another bribery case.

But, the most daring attempt to uphold justice was made by Army Maj. (ret) Ismail Putra, who testified in a July 11 hearing at the Central Jakarta District Court that former chief of the Indonesian Military Intelligence Body (BIA) Gen. Tyasno Sudarto knew and supported the production of Rp 19.2 billion in fake banknotes.

However, prosecutor Soejitno repeatedly refused to call Tyasno to the stand to clarify the matter, pushing lawyers to call Soejitno a coward.

It was likely, however, that the Indonesian judges had been independent enough when they dealt with drug cases.

Besides the one involving Soeharto's granddaughter-in-law, the Tangerang District Court had the courage to hand down death sentences to three local cocaine dealers on Aug. 22.

The defendants, Deni Setya Maharwan, 28, Ranni Andriani, 25, and Merika Franola alias Ola, 30, were declared guilty of being part of an international drug ring and attempting to smuggle cocaine out of Indonesia.

In January, February and August, the district court also handed down death sentences to five foreign drug traffickers, four of them Nepalese and one Angolan.

Another black mark for the Army was drug convict Second. Lt. Agus Isrok of the Army's Special Forces (Kopassus).

The Jakarta Military High Court may have reduced his jail sentence over his drug case and reinstated him as an Army officer, but the general public will not easily forget that a military court had discharged Agus over drugs from the Army on June 22, in addition to sentencing him to four years in prison and fining him Rp 10 million ($1,052).

Agus, the eldest son of former Army chief Gen. Subagyo Hadisiswoyo and an active member of Kopassus Group IV for intelligence operations in Cijantung, East Jakarta, was found guilty by the military court of possessing narcotics and psychotropic substances on Aug. 8 last year.

The West Jakarta District Court sentenced former television actress, Zarina Mirafsur, on June 29, to three years in prison and fined her Rp 7.5 million ($882) for possessing one gram of shabu-shabu on Oct. 1 last year.

Zarina was earlier sentenced by the same court in 1997 to four years imprisonment for a drug offense.

The latest drug case involving a celebrity was that of comedian Sudarmadji, popularly known as Doyok, who was sentenced earlier this month to a one-year jail term for the illegal use of 0.5 grams of shabu-shabu on Nov. 20.