Tue, 14 May 2002

Tommy's lawyer Elza gets slap on the wrist

Leo Wahyudi S. and Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

As had been predicted earlier, the ethics hearing of the Indonesian Advocates and Lawyers Association (HAPI) failed to reach a decision against lawyer Elza Syarief that would satisfy the public, although she was found guilty of violating the ethics code by "influencing prosecuting witnesses to defend her client."

The hearing reprimanded her for an "ethics violation", but then dropped an earlier recommendation for Elza to halt representation of her client Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra, the youngest son of former authoritarian president Soeharto.

Lawyer Yan Apul Girsang, who led the hearing, said that, "Elza had followed her instincts to do her best for her client".

Yan Apul was himself once tried for giving false information before a notary public in Surabaya. He was taken to court but acquitted of all charges last year.

He announced that HAPI had given Elza, who did not attend the hearing, a "strong warning" for violating its ethics code.

After the hearing, however, Yan Apul appeared confused while reporters demanded him to define "strong warning".

"It means... uh... no... we won't ban her to do anything as a lawyer... umm... yes, it's like a yellow card," he said, agreeing with a reporter who asked him whether the "strong warning" was similar to a yellow card in a soccer match.

A soccer player who obtains a yellow card for a foul is kicked out of the game if he or she gets a second one. HAPI, therefore, would likely suspend Elza's membership if she committed the same violation again, he said.

The HAPI ethics committee was established last month to review Elza's case. The association set procedures to conduct the hearing just four days before the hearing began on May 3.

Elza, who is also the deputy secretary general of HAPI, is being detained at the Jakarta Police headquarters for allegedly paying witnesses to lie during Tommy's trial.

She is accused of having paid Rahmat Hidayat and Tatang Somantri, who are also under police detention, to withdraw their statements made to the police.

They admitted that Elza gave them Rp 2 million each before they testified in court.

Elza, however, admitted that she gave a total of Rp 5.8 million before Tommy's hearing on April 10 not only to Rahmat and Tatang but also to other witnesses, Beni M. Robbani and Marvin Hukom, who worked for the Soeharto-family's Cemara Apartment.

The money, Elza claimed, was used to buy decent clothes for Rahmat and Tatang as well as to rent them a car to attend Tommy's hearing on April 10.

Separately, lawyer Petrus Bala Pattyona visited the Jakarta Police headquarters as the police had planned to confront Rahmat and Tatang with Elza, her staff Tiurma Sondang Pasaribu, as well as Cemara Apartment officers Beni M. Robbani and Marvin Hukom.

Petrus, however, looked shocked when he found out that his clients had been accompanied by their newly appointed lawyer, Farhat Abbas, in the investigation room.

The lawyer, who could not hide his anger, asked the police to suspend the investigation. However, two police officers expelled him from the room after he screamed and issued a veiled threat against Farhat and the investigators.

"Blood is red. Who do you think you are, Farhat?" he shouted at Farhat after the investigation.

Farhat, who stayed calm, told reporters that Rahmat and Tatang had appointed him to become their lawyer on May 8. Petrus and Nudirman Munir, their other lawyer had been duly informed about it, Farhat claimed.