JAKARTA - Indonesian police on Friday detained the deputy chief of the anti-graft agency over a false testimony case dating from 2010, fuelling tension between two law enforcement bodies that have long had strained relations.
The step comes a week after the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) named police general Budi Gunawan as a bribery suspect, forcing President Joko Widodo to delay Gunawan's appointment as the next police chief.
The apparent tit-for-tat actions reignite a rivalry between the graft-tainted police and the independent agency, popular among ordinary Indonesians for being a thorn in the side of the establishment.
Resolving the situation will prove an early test for Widodo, who took office in October, pledging a clean government. "I ask the police and KPK to ensure that the process of the law is objective," Widodo said, as leaders from the two law enforcement agencies stood by his side.
"I also ask, as the head of state, that there be no friction between the police and KPK when doing their jobs." Police named the deputy chief, Bambang Widjojanto, as a suspect in a case involving false testimony to the Constitutional Court when he was a lawyer in 2010, police spokesman Ronny Sompie told reporters, but added his detention was not linked to the agency.
The anti-corruption agency's supporters took to social media in protest, calling the detention a retaliation for the agency's move in naming Gunawan as a suspect.
More than 100 people gathered outside the agency's headquarters in Jakarta to show support, some holding signs that read, "I am KPK". "This is a litmus test for the president. If he can navigate through this with the right decision then the people will back him," said Yenny Wahid of the Wahid Institute think tank.
On Jan. 10 Widodo named Gunawan as his sole pick for police chief in a decision immediately criticised by anti-graft fighters as the general was under investigation for bribery.
A few days later the anti-graft body, which has a perfect record of convictions, named Gunawan a suspect.
Gunawan, now the head of police training, is popular with the political elite and is close to former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, the leader of Widodo's political party.
Parliament approved Gunawan's nomination, despite his status. Widodo, who chose Gunawan on a recommendation from the National Police Commission, has delayed appointing him, due to the controversy, and instead named an interim chief.
In 2012, police tried to arrest the anti-graft agency's lead investigator soon after it questioned the police inspector general for bribery, but backed off after opposition from agency supporters.