Shock over arrest of top Jakarta judge

Shock over arrest of top Jakarta judge
Dr Akil Mochtar, chief judge of the Constitutional Court, was caught with cash worth up to $330,000 on Wednesday.

The late-night arrest of the chief judge of Indonesia's Constitutional Court, in a case involving the fixing of a local election result, has exposed just how vulnerable even the country's highest judicial office is to graft.

Anti-graft officials caught Dr Akil Mochtar, 52, with Singapore and US dollars worth up to three billion rupiah (S$330,000) at his official residence in South Jakarta's Widya Chandra ministerial complex, during a meeting with Golkar politician Chairun Nisa and businessman Cornelius around 10 on Wednesday night.

Police made three more arrests within hours in separate locations. No charges have been filed so far.

"Dr Akil's arrest has tainted the constitutional court, the nation's highest legal office, as an institution that cannot be trusted any more," a shocked Mr Mahfud MD, a former constitutional court judge, told reporters hours after his successor's arrest.

Dr Akil, a former politician from the ruling party's coalition partner Golkar, had assumed his post in Indonesia's highest-ranking judicial office only five months ago.

His rank is equivalent to that of a Cabinet minister.

His arrest has raised questions about how easily democracy can be bought as national elections loom months away.

It has also tarnished the image of the constitutional court, which rules in disputes over election results.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono described his arrest as "shocking".

"I, too, feel the anger and shock of Indonesians upon learning about what happened last night," he told reporters at the presidential palace on Thursday.

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