Tue, 06 Aug 2002

Tommy's saga may continue despite refusal to appeal

Soeryo Winoto, Staff Writer, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

By skipping his chance to appeal the 15-year verdict for, among others things, conspiracy to murder Supreme Court Justice M. Syafiuddin Kartasasmita, Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra officially became a convicted criminal last Saturday.

What is behind Tommy's decision?

Only Tommy, God -- and maybe his lawyers -- know for sure. Many have speculated that Tommy was worried that an appeal could result in a heavier sentence.

In making this decision Tommy has practically pleaded guilty; an indirect confession of all offenses charged by the prosecutors.

Is the saga of the youngest son of former president Soeharto over? The battle is apparently not over yet.

Passing up his chance to appeal, Tommy still has the right to seek a legal review of the verdict from the Supreme Court, or apply for a pardon from the President.

According to Article 263 of the Criminal Procedure Code (KUHAP), a convict may request the Supreme Court to annul the verdict handed down by the court, if it can be proven that the (panel of) judges made a legal blunder.

Tommy's lawyers may be of the opinion that the court (the judges) had made a mistake by handing down a verdict without the presence of the defendant, who claimed to be sick at that time.

Now that Tommy has become a convicted murderer, people are interested to hear how he is "surviving" in Cipinang Penitentiary, which accommodates more than 2,500 inmates.

Will Tommy still get special treatment at the prison? Or, will he be transferred to another room together with other prisoners?

Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra said last Friday that Tommy would lose all privileges he had enjoyed so far.

Yusril's statement was amusing to many, but implied that he fully understood and accepted that, unlike other detainees, Tommy got special treatment.

It is the Directorate General of Correctional Institutions at the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights (through the penitentiary management), that has the authority to move Tommy from Cipinang or to transfer him to another cell where he would stay along with other convicted murderers.

Normally the cells in Cipinang Penitentiary are crowded with convicts with one cell housing more than a dozen inmates.

The fact is that as of Saturday Tommy continued to maintain his exceptional privileges at Cipinang Penitentiary. He enjoys a freshly painted three-room cell furnished with a foam bed, 21- inch television and a private shower with clean and fresh water. Ordinary inmates use communal bathrooms, with eight people to one bathroom.

It is unlikely that Tommy will be moved from Cipinang.

Elza Syarief, one of his attorneys, said on Saturday that she didn't see any reason to move her client. She said that a convict had the right to choose a prison located close to his or her family.

Elza's statement was a bit surprising as it is the prerogative of the Directorate General of Correctional Institutions to have convicts moved.

Hendardi, coordinator of Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI), said that not a single convict had the right to choose a prison or cell based on their preference, whatever the reason may be.

"But usually the decision to move is based on considerations, including the security and safety of the convict," he said, citing the case of Mohamad "Bob" Hasan, a crony of Soeharto who was moved from Cipinang to Nusa Kambangan prison in Central Java, following fracas at the prison.

"Special consideration is also given to poor people, whose relatives are jailed, considering that they would find it (financially) difficult to visit their relatives jailed in other towns," Hendardi said.

"There would be chaos in the administration if all convicts had the right to refuse to be moved or select a prison of their choice. The Director General of Correctional Institutions will be very busy finding hotel rooms for special convicts ...," Hendardi said laughing.

Prisons are a part of the legal system, which in Indonesia, are notorious for being corrupt and favoring the rich and influential.

United Nations special rapporteur Param Cumaraswamy, who visited Indonesia recently, described the Indonesian legal system as among the worst he had seen.

The escape of Eddy Tansil from the Cipinang Prison in May, 1996 could be cited as very clear example of the result of "special privileges" given by the prison to Tansil, who entered Cipinang in 1994.

Tansil, owner of the Golden Key Group, escaped while he was serving a 20-year prison sentence for embezzling Rp 1.3 trillion in state funds. He received preferential treatment before his escape.

Tommy, although less than one month in the prison, has made the headlines for enjoying special privileges. He may get even more facilities in the future.

It is not impossible that Tommy be given the freedom to leave the cell to visit certain places, or to do other things prisoners are prohibited from doing.

It is unlawful that Tommy receives such privileges, and it is even more unlawful for those who make all of this possible.

Both Tommy and those who have granted him preferential treatment have blatantly insulted our judiciary.

If the special treatment continues and no efforts are made by Minister Yusril to stop it, then he will have proven that he also has disrespected the judicial system.