Top Indonesian judge suspended

Top Indonesian judge suspended

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has suspended the chief judge of the Constitutional Court in a bid to salvage the integrity of the nation's highest offices, days after the judge, Akil Mochtar, was caught with a bag stuffed with cash at his home and drugs were found in his office drawer.

The President ordered checks to be tightened on the Constitutional Court and its judges, and called for a review of the way top judges are chosen. He also assigned the Judicial Committee to monitor the court.

"This is a political tragedy and a tragedy in upholding the law and justice in the country," Dr Yudhoyono told reporters yesterday at the presidential palace after a two-hour meeting with senior government office-holders.

His comments came as anti-graft officials confirmed that marijuana and Ecstasy pills were found at Dr Akil's office and deepened investigations into a suspected attempt to bribe the judge to influence his rulings in at least two disputed district-level election results.

The case has sparked national outrage, casting doubt on the fairness of Indonesia's entire judicial process. It confirms a long-held view that even judges in the highest court with extensive powers are on the take.

The arrest marks the first time that a Constitutional Court judge has been caught, following the arrests of prominent officials in the police and political parties, plunging the nation into a crisis of confidence.

"The public is going through a demoralisation that has no precedent in our history," wrote Mr Budiarto Shambazy in national daily Kompas. "The question is: Is there anyone or any institution left that can command the authority to find a solution that satisfies the public?"

Dr Saharuddin Daming, a law professor with Bogor's Ibn Khaldun University, recorded 309 local district chiefs - over half of all in the country - as having been questioned or charged with graft.

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