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(Jakarta Globe) Supreme Court Must Close Budi’s Loophole


Fears that graft suspects will use a court ruling that lifted Comr. Gen. Budi Gunawan from an indictment by the Corruption Eradication Commission’s (KPK) became a reality on Monday.

Former Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali filed a pretrial motion in South Jakarta District Court against the KPK, seeking dismissal of his case and claiming the anti-graft authorities erred in naming him as a corruption suspect for allegedly mismanaging hajj funds.

The same court’s judge, Sarpin Rizaldi, rejected KPK’s indictment of Budi on unusual grounds: He ruled that KPK lacked jurisdiction to charge Budi because anti-graft body is statutorily limited to prosecuting public officials who cause more than Rp 1 billion ($77,000) in state losses.

The judge determined Budi wasn’t a state official, despite his position as the National Police’s human resources director, and that KPK had not proved more than Rp 1 billion in state losses. The ruling has been controversial among legal scholars, who say Sarpin erred in expanding the scope of permissible issues, namely evidential findings, that may be argued in pretrial hearings.

Suryadharma’s lawyer openly acknowledged Budi’s victory inspired this latest play, signaling what may be the beginning of a flooding of similar pleas by graft suspects seeking a legal loophole to escape punishment. More worrisome, it could also undermine KPK’s statutory authority and nation’s progress in fighting corruption.

Looking at the record of Indonesian judges, there is sufficient reason to be worried. Most graft suspects are cashed up and have paid to get their way before. While courts and judges need to reform, there’s hope that Supreme Court (MA) will toss out Sarpin’s new loophole. The public must let the judiciary know we will not stand for this injustice.