Former Indonesian Constitutional Court chief gets life sentence

Former Indonesian Constitutional Court chief gets life sentence
Indonesian former judge Akil Mochtar waits in a detention room prior to his corruption trial in Jakarta.

The Jakarta Corruption Court handed down a historic ruling on Monday evening by sentencing 53-year-old former Constitutional Court chief justice Akil Mochtar to life imprisonment, the most severe in the court's history.

The former Golkar Party politician, who showed no sign of remorse for his wrongdoings, was found guilty of accepting 57 billion rupiah (US$4.7 million) in bribes from a number of regional heads to influence decisions on election disputes during his tenure in the court.

The life sentence for Akil marks the first time the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has successfully convinced the court to sentence a defendant facing graft or money-laundering charges to life in prison since its establishment in 2003.

The panel of judges at the Jakarta Corruption Court found that Akil, a former member of the House of Representatives, had laundered 160 billion rupiah during his term in the court and 20 billion rupiah when he was serving as a House representative.

"Our examination has found the defendant guilty of corruption," presiding judge Suwidya said as he read the verdict at the court on Monday night.

During the approximately eight hours it took to read the verdict, Akil, who had frequently displayed a degree of arrogance during his almost four-month trial, listened impassively to the judges' explanation of their verdict, occasionally closing his eyes. However, he appeared somewhat taken aback after hearing the judge say the words "life sentence".

If Akil accepts the verdict, or if a higher court upholds his life sentence should he appeal against the verdict, he will spend the remainder of his life behind bars.

Suwidya said that KPK prosecutors' demands to strip Akil of his political rights and for him to reimburse the state with 10 billion rupiah would not apply to Akil as he would spend the rest of his life in jail should the verdict later be found to be legal and binding.

Responding to the verdict and sentence, Akil said that he would appeal against them.

"I will file an appeal," Akil said after hearing the verdict.

KPK deputy chairman Bambang Widjojanto said that Akil's conviction was a strong impetus for the antigraft body to charge the regional heads who used a number of go-betweens, varying from businessmen to lawyers, to bribe Akil.

"We will study the verdict in the first place then we will make moves to charge the bribe payers," Bambang told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

With regard to the bribe payers, the court has so far sentenced former Gunung Mas regent Hambit Bintih, go-betweens businessman Cornelis Nalau Antun and Golkar lawmaker Chairun Nisa to four years, three years and four years in prison respectively in relation to the Gunung Mas election dispute.

Meanwhile, in relation to the Lebak regency and Banten gubernatorial election disputes being tried at the Jakarta Corruption Court, the court has handed down its verdicts on politically wired Banten businessman Tubagus Chaeri "Wawan" Wardana, who is the younger brother of suspended Banten governor Ratu Atut Chosiyah, and go-between lawyer Susi Tur Andayani, with five years behind bars for each.

The KPK is still completing Atut's dossier in the case.

Recently the KPK also named Palembang Mayor Romi Herton along with his wife Masyitoh graft suspects for allegedly bribing Akil.

Other regional leaders who allegedly bribed Akil but remain at liberty are former Lebak deputy regent Amir Hamzah, Empat Lawang Regent Budi Antoni Aljufri, South Lampung Regent Rycko Menoza, Buton Regent Samsu Umar Abdul Samiun, Morotai Island Regent Rusli Sibua and Central Tapanuli Regent Raja Bonaran Situmeang.

Bambang added the KPK would also ensure that the verdicts on perpetrators handed down by the Jakarta Corruption Court would be upheld in higher courts.

"After the verdict the KPK will also focus more on revealing other graft cases plaguing the political dynasty in Banten," Bambang said, referring to the political dynasty of Atut.

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