Connect to share and comment

Indonesia's former anti-corruption czar sentenced

An Indonesian court sentenced Indonesia’s former anticorruption czar to 18 years in prison for orchestrating the murder of a prominent business executive Thursday.

The verdict marks the culmination of almost one year of all kinds of intrigue that pitted the anticorruption body against top law enforcement agencies.

Police arrested Azhar Antasari, the anticorruption chief, in May of last year, two months after the drive-by shooting of businessman and golf buddy Nasrudin Zulkarnaen. Prosecutors argued that Antasari had masterminded the murder in an attempt to cover up his affair with a young female golf caddie who also happened to be Zulkarnaen’s third wife.

The caddie’s sultry testimony in November detailing her affair with Antasari, which judges again read aloud in court on Thursday, captivated the nation and added to a drama that was already fit for daytime television.

Here is a sample of what the judge read Thursday: “The defendant asked the witness to massage him in bed but she refused and massaged him on the sofa. The defendant kissed the lips of the witness. His hands opened two, three buttons on her shirt and slipped inside her bra.”

Antasari’s arrest temporarily crippled President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s fight against graft. The president had leaned on the agency to fulfill his promises of investigating corruption since its establishment in 2003.

The agency’s problems were made even worse several months after Antasari’s arrest when police took two deputy commissioners, Bibit Rianto and Chandra Hamzah, into custody on allegations of bribery.

The trial of those two men, however, instead revealed a scheme that might seem surprising in any other country, but not in Indonesia.

Wiretap recordings played in court and aired publically on cable news stations revealed a plot by top law enforcement officials to frame the two deputies and discredit the anticorruption commission, which had begun investigating corruption allegations inside both the attorney general’s office and the national police more aggressively.

Large street protests led to their reinstatement and an investigation into what has been dubbed Indonesia’s “judicial mafia.” It also cast doubt on the allegations facing Antasari.

As if the spectacle was not already dramatic enough, judges presiding over Antasari’s trial agreed to read the 179-page decision almost in its entirety as Antasari, clearly nervous, sat breathing heavily.

Then, as if scripted for reality television, the judges took a half-hour break before finally reading the guilty verdict. All told, Antasari, along with the hundreds of family members, journalists, supporters and almost one thousand police officers, waited for six hours before the verdict was finally read.

Antasari said he would respect the verdict upon hearing the decision.

“But I plan to appeal,” he added to raucous cheers inside the courtroom.

Supporters outside the courtroom held signs that read, “Antasari will live on.”

So will, it seems, Indonesia’s rampant corruption.