Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo is considering a pardon for former Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) chairman Antasari Azhar, who was sentenced to 18 years for masterminding the killing of businessman Nasruddin Zulkarnaen in May 2009.
The president is seeking to release Antasari on health and humanitarian grounds, but in order to do so he has to resolve several legal problems as Antasari's eligibility for an appeal for clemency from the president has expired according to the law.
Minister of Law and Human Rights Yasonna H Laoly confirmed on Monday the president's intention following the deterioration in the health of the former senior official at the Attorney General's Office.
"He [Jokowi] feels [Antasari's] sentence was severe and he is currently being treated at OMNI hospital. So we submitted our considerations to the president," said Yasonna after attending a special meeting on Antasari with the president along with several other Cabinet members.
The president asked them to help him in overcoming the legal hurdles. The Supreme Court had earlier informed the president that there were no legal grounds for the president to release Antasari.
"The problem is that the head of state should not break the law. We have given our input, it is up to the president to make his decision," said Yasonna.
In January 2010, South Jakarta District Court found Antasari guilty of the murder of Nasruddin. The apparent motivation for the killing was that Nasruddin was blackmailing Antasari, after Nasruddin caught Antasari in a hotel room with Nasruddin's third wife, golf caddy Rani Juliani.
Antasari has repeatedly proclaimed his innocence and has taken all available legal steps to challenge the verdict. Later he agreed to ask for clemency from the president.
"Initially, Pak Antasari did not want to confess his deed. But this is not an issue of confession or no confession, he [the president] regards him [Antasari] as an ailing man," said Yasonna.
There have been lingering public suspicions that Antasari was set up following his concerted efforts as KPK chairman to bring former Bank Indonesia deputy governor Aulia Pohan, an in-law of then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to court in a bribery case.
Antasari also launched an investigation into alleged corruption in the procurement of an IT project at the General Elections Commission (KPU), another move that could have led to the exposure of alleged vote-rigging in the victory of Yudhoyono and his Democratic Party in the 2009 presidential race.
Antasari's most ambitious action was when he declared he would take control of the investigation into the 6.7 trillion rupiah (S$670 million) bailout of Bank Century during the global economic crisis in 2008, which was being investigated by the National Police.
Yudhoyono has repeatedly denied all allegations of any involvement whatsoever in the Antasari case.