Following in the footsteps of Comr. Gen. Budi Gunawan, former religious affairs minister Suryadharma Ali on Monday filed a pretrial petition at the South Jakarta District Court to challenge his being named a suspect by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).
The former chairman of the United Development Party (PPP) has been accused of committing malfeasance, enriching himself and others and corporate enrichment in relation to alleged irregularities between 2012 and 2013 that caused Rp 1 trillion (S$110 million) in state losses.
He served as minister of religious affairs from 2019 to 2014.
"You just don't know how much it hurts to be a graft suspect. It's like a stab in the heart. The suspect status hurts not only me but my whole family, including my children and wife, and PPP voters," Suryadharma said during a press conference on Monday.
Suryadharma , who also served as minister of cooperatives and small and medium enterprises from 2004-2009, said he was confident the South Jakarta District Court would approve his request as it did that of National Police chief candidate Budi last week.
South Jakarta District Court judge Sarpin Rizaldi granted Budi's pretrial petition last Monday to void his graft-suspect status and declare the KPK's investigation of him invalid, despite the Criminal Law Procedures Code (KUHAP) granting no authority for a judge to do so.
The Supreme Court and the Judicial Commission have promised to check whether Sarpin conducted any wrongdoing as the pretrial's judge. Sarpin insisted his decision was based purely on legal considerations.
Suryadharma's lawyer Humphrey Djemat said that he would present a number of witnesses and experts to convince the panel of judges at the court that "the KPK has named my client a suspect without first compiling strong evidence".
"My client remains adamant that he is innocent in this case and that he committed none of the offences the KPK has accused him of," Humphrey said.
The South Jakarta District Court has not decided the schedule for Suryadharma's pretrial hearing.
This latest move is the third tactic that Suryadharma has employed to prevent the KPK from detaining him after KPK investigators reached the last phase of the investigation into him.
On Feb. 4, he skipped questioning, claiming that the KPK summons letter had a typographical error, while on Feb. 10, he again sidestepped a KPK grilling by claiming to be hospitalised. He declined to provide any proof of his medical condition.
Separately, KPK acting chairman Taufiqurrahman Ruki said that he respected Suryadharma's move to challenge his legal status, but refused to say whether KPK investigators would temporarily freeze investigations until the court had made a decision on Suryadharma's pretrial petition.
"It is the right of every citizen to challenge his legal status through a pretrial mechanism," Taufiqurrahman said on Monday.
Miko Susanto Ginting from the Center of Indonesian Legal and Policies Studies (PSHKI) said he hoped that the court would reject Suryadharma's proposal and urged the KPK to continue its investigation regardless of the ex-minister's move.
"Every ruling has its own context so the court's decision approving Budi's pretrial ruling does not mean the court will do the same on Suryadharma. That is not how the law works. A ruling is not a law but only a reference that cannot be blindly applied to other cases," Miko said.