Fri, 14 Feb 2003

Elza could face seven years behind bars

Damar Harsanto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Elza Syarief, one of the lawyers who defended flamboyant convict Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra, the youngest son of former president Soeharto, may face a seven-year prison sentence over alleged false statements made under oath, and bribery.

"We have completed the dossiers. We shall submit the dossiers, as well the suspect, to the Jakarta Prosecutors Office soon. If convicted, she could face a maximum sentence of seven years in jail," Comr. Sutarjo, deputy head of city police corruption detectives told The Jakarta Post and Sinar Harapan on Thursday.

Sutarjo said Elza was charged with bribing Ahmad Hidayat and Tatang Somantri, security guards at the Cemara Apartment in Menteng, Central Jakarta, to lie.

The guards had become witnesses in the investigation into illegal possession of firearms and ammunition at the apartment, which implicated Tommy.

Sutarjo said Elza was charged under Article 242 of the Criminal Code on false statements, which carried a maximum seven- year jail sentence.

In addition, Elza was also charged, under Article 55 of the code, with assisting in the commission of a crime as well as Article 2 of Law No. 11/1980 on bribery, which carries a maximum five-year prison sentence, Sutarjo added.

Elza is one of Tommy's lawyers who defended him over several criminal charges, including arranging the murder of Supreme Court Justice M. Syafiuddin Kartasasmita, illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, and flight from the law.

Tommy was convicted and given a 15-year jail sentence. He commenced his prison sentence at Cipinang Penitentiary, East Jakarta, and was later transferred to Nusakambangan Penitentiary, Central Java.

The police detained Elza for a month as a bribery suspect from May 6 to June 6 last year. She was subsequently released following a request for a delay in her detention.

In May last year, before an ethics committee of lawyers, Elza admitted that she had given Rp 5.8 million (US$647) to two witnesses in her client's case to withdraw their statements made earlier to the city police. In addition, Elza also acknowledged before the hearing that she had given cash to other witnesses, including Cemara Apartment staff Marvin Hukom and Beni M. Robani.

Both Rahmat and Tatang told the police earlier that Elza gave them Rp 2 million before they testified in court on April 10 last year.

In return, they denied that signatures on police statements were theirs. They also told the Central Jakarta District Court that the police had tortured them during questioning.

Several witnesses confirmed that Elza had asked for Rp 5.8 million from the Bakti Putra Bangsa Foundation, which manages the apartment, where the police found ammunition and firearms reportedly belonging to Tommy.

Tommy chaired the foundation before relinquishing the post in favor of his wife, Ardhia Pramesti Regita Cahyani, in January 2001.