Fri, 04 Jul 2003

Tommy seeks review of murder conviction

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Convicted Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra, -- who earlier accepted his 15-year jail term sentence for the 2001 murder of Justice Syafiuddin Kartasasmita and three other cases -- has decided to challenge the verdict.

Tommy announced on Aug. 1, 2002 that he would not appeal the court sentence but stressed that he would consider other legal options, "taking into account the political situation in the country."

And Tommy seems to have seen a favorable political situation as on Wednesday Judge Andi Samsan Nganro, the spokesman of the Central Jakarta District Court, revealed that Tommy's lawyers submitted a request for judicial review to the court last week.

"We have set up a panel of judges to hear the case before passing it on to the Supreme Court. The panel decided to mandate the Cilacap District Court to hear the case in light of new testimony from witnesses and to check new evidence," he told reporters on Thursday.

Judge Andi did not reveal the new evidence to be presented by Tommy. John K. Aziz, Tommy's lawyer, could not be reached for comment.

The panel of judges in Jakarta, which consists of Judge Ridwan Mansyur, Sunaryo and Panusunan Harahap, will decide whether the case has the merit to be processed or not, Judge Andi added.

Tommy is currently being held at the Batu Penitentiary on Nusakambangan island, Central Java. The island is under the jurisdiction of Cilacap District Court.

According to legal procedure, a convict making a request for a judicial review to the Supreme Court must submit new evidence to the district court that heard the case. The district court is obliged to check new evidence, including testimony by witnesses presented by the convict.

"A Supreme Court regulation permits a district court to ask another court to hear such a case," Judge Andi said.

Judge Andi said the court's decision was also due to security reasons resulting from Tommy's past record as a fugitive. During his trial last year, the police heavily guarded the youngest son of former president Soeharto.

Judge Andi denied that the court's decision was an attempt to avoid press coverage of the case.

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

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

Evidence is invalid if it is seized without a warrant.

Legal experts said that Tommy's absence during the delivery of the verdict was another mistake that might influence the appeal's ruling, 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.