Mon, 27 Aug 2001

NGOs blast two court rulings on bribery cases

JAKARTA (JP): A coalition of watchdogs on legal affairs has lashed out at two court's decisions to dismiss cases against three Supreme Court justices who allegedly accepted bribes, arguing it was an insult to people's sense of law and justice.

The Coalition of Judicial Corruption Watch urged the Supreme Court on Friday to examine both the decisions and the judges who handled the cases, and openly disclose the examination results to the public.

Nizar Suhendra of the Indonesian Transparency Society (MTI) argued that the rulings by judges of the West Jakarta District Court and Central Jakarta District Court were a bad precedent for the battle against widespread corruption in the country.

"From these decisions we can learn that lawyers can argue against the anti-corruption law used by the prosecutors to charge their clients," he told a media briefing at the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute.

The West Jakarta District Court turned down the indictment against retired Supreme Court justice Yahya M. Harahap on Tuesday, stating that the prosecutor had charged him under the wrong law. The prosecutor, according to Judge Suharyono, had charged Harahap under the 1999 Anti-Corruption Law while the case was covered by the 1971 Law, which is no longer valid.

On the same day, the Central Jakarta District Court dismissed the trials of Supreme Court justices Supraptini Suprapto and Marnis Kahar, who were charged for a similar crime in connection to Harahap's case.

Rusdi As'ad, the presiding judge, said that the court had to dismiss the trials of the two defendants as the indictments "overlapped too much and were inaccurate".

He said the prosecutors could not charge the suspects under both the 1971 Anti-Corruption Law and the Criminal Code, but had to choose either one.

The three, who allegedly accepted a total of Rp 196 million (some US$16,800) from a middleman in connection with a land case they were handling in 1998, were also charged under Criminal Code articles for allegedly accepting bribes in their capacity as judges and for reportedly receiving gifts as state officials.

The coalition of watchdogs argued that the judges' arguments were illogical because the new Anti-Corruption Law did not replace the old one and that, by law, it was appropriate for prosecutors to combine charges in a corruption case.

Asep Rahmat from the Indonesia Society for Judicial Watch (MaPPI) said that there was nothing wrong with the indictments and should there be uncertainties in the laws covering the case, he challenged the judges to settle it.

"The judges have to be brave enough to make their own judgment in battling corruption, and the public should also be taught that judges have the authority to make such a breakthrough," he said.

Nizar underlined the urgency for a special corruption tribunal, one free from any interest and influence since graft cases could involve both state institutions and members of the judiciary.

Separately, Judge Binsar Gultom, who is secretary of the Bogor chapter of Association of Indonesian Judges (IKAHI), said in a statement made available to The Jakarta Post on Friday that both the judges and the prosecutors had to decide upon a common concept on compiling indictments in a bid to avoid further accusations of a conspiracy among judges to protect their own kind. (bby)