An Indonesian court decision to uphold the lawsuit of a three-star police general against the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has dealt a blow to the agency and put pressure on President Joko Widodo to appoint an unpopular candidate as national police chief.
General Budi Gunawan launched the lawsuit after the KPK declared him a suspect in a graft case.
Yesterday, Judge Sarpin Rizaldi of the South Jakarta district court rejected the KPK's move.
"The decision to declare the plaintiff a suspect is not valid… and the letter authorising an investigation into the plaintiff as a 'suspect' does not have legal force," the judge told the heavily guarded court after hearing both sides' arguments last week.
The judge ruled that the KPK's decision to name Gen Budi as a suspect four days after Mr Joko nominated him as police chief was technically flawed under the law, and that as head of the national police's career planning division between 2004 and 2006, the general was not in a law enforcement position during that period, nor did he cause state losses of more than one billion rupiah (S$110,000).
As policemen celebrated, pro- KPK supporters across Indonesia came out to demand that the agency lodge an appeal against the decision at the Supreme Court.
On one level, the case is a reflection of the power struggle between the police and the anti-graft agency that has intensified since the KPK named Gen Budi as a bribery suspect.
The police retaliated against the naming of Gen Budi as a suspect by announcing probes into all four KPK commissioners.
An online smear campaign has targeted KPK chief Abraham Samad.
On another level, the case is seen as the biggest test of Mr Joko's fight against endemic corruption and of his political independence.
If he appoints Gen Budi, he will be seen as being held hostage to political interests and going against public support.
Gen Budi was Mrs Megawati Soekarnoputri's adjutant from 2001 to 2005, when she was the country's president.
As chairman of the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party - Struggle (PDI-P) party, she has backed Gen Budi as the next police chief.
KPK legal department head Chatarina Muliana Girsang told the court she was concerned the verdict would set a precedent for corruption suspects to protest against their status and launch legal challenges against the KPK's authority.
However, court analyst Refly Harun said yesterday's verdict does not prevent the KPK from taking up Gen Budi's case again.
"This just means that the court has said KPK's process was flawed, but it does not prevent them from reviewing the case and bringing it up again," he said.
Political pressure is mounting on Mr Joko, whose PDI-P party cadres now say he should appoint the unpopular general immediately, since there are no longer any legal obstacles.
Mr Joko had, on Jan 15, delayed Gen Budi's appointment, saying he preferred to let all legal processes conclude before he issues his decision.
A team of nine advisers, formed by Mr Joko to seek advice on the matter, remained firm that the President should not appoint the general.
The KPK's leadership has yet to decide on its next course of action, but Ms Chatarina said the agency was considering an appeal to the Supreme Court, The Jakarta Post reported.
A survey by respected pollster Indonesia Survey Institute last month showed that Mr Joko and the KPK ranked among the top three most-trusted state symbols. The police came in at No. 6.
This article was first published on February 17, 2015.
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