Mon, 07 Jul 2003

Tommy review to begin on Wednesday

Agus Maryono and Moch. N. Kurniawan, The Jakarta Post, Cilacap/Jakarta

The Cilacap District Court has responded swiftly to a review request filed by convicted criminal Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra by setting the first day of hearing for Wednesday, barely one week after the news of the petition broke in the press.

Cilacap District Court President Sugeng Ahmad Judhi said on Saturday that the judges would hear Tommy's explanations on the review and examine new evidence before passing the case on to the Supreme Court.

"If there is new evidence, we will swear in the witnesses," Sugeng said.

Tommy, the youngest son of former president Soeharto, is currently serving a 15-year jail sentence at the Batu Penitentiary on Nusakambangan island, Central Java, which is under the jurisdiction of the Cilacap District Court, for ordering the killing of Justice Syafiuddin Kartasasmita in 2001.

Central Jakarta District Court spokesman Judge Andi Samsan Nganro said last Thursday that Tommy had filed for a review of his 15 years' sentence. He did not reveal when Tommy or his lawyers submitted the petition.

There is no special time frame for judges to hear a review request, but the country's courts are notorious for their sluggishness in handling law cases.

Sugeng said the hearing would be held in his court at the request of the Central Jakarta District Court, which convicted Tommy in August 2002. Tommy did not appeal the verdict.

Andi said the decision was also due to security reasons resulting from Tommy's past record as a fugitive.

Topo Santoso, a law expert from the University of Indonesia, said on Sunday it was possible to move the hearing from the Central Jakarta District Court to the Cilacap District Court.

"The most important thing is that the new evidence can be presented to the court ..." he said.

According to Judge Andi, Tommy's lawyers have new evidence to present to the court. He, however, did not reveal what this might be.

The Attorney General's Office had appointed Prosecutor Hasan Madani to challenge Tommy's request for a judicial review.

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 at different locations.

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.

The Central Jakarta District Court delivered the verdict in the absence of the defendant, who claimed to have diarrhea which his doctors said was the result of stress.