The recent arrest of the Constitutional Court’s chief justice has sent ripples across the country, tarnishing the reputation of the judicial institution — an institution often held up as a rare example of corruption-free power.
Indonesia’s anti-graft institution has arrested Chief Justice Akil Mochtar who allegedly accepted a bribe to fix the court’s ruling on a contested election in central Kalimantan.
Golkar Party lawmaker and Indonesian Council of Ulema treasurer Chairun Nisa and four other suspects were caught red-handed handing over some US$261,000 in cash.
Not long after Akil Mochtar’s arrest, he was named as a graft suspect in another case of a contested election in Lebak, Banten.
Ismail Hasani, a researcher at Setara Institute, said: “For the past 10 years, the Constitutional Court has been the favourite place to seek justice in protecting citizens’ rights.
“When the chief justice was arrested by the KPK (Corruption Eradication Commission), then it is normal for people to question whether the previous rulings that were made truly upheld justice.”
Nine NGOs gathered to call for Akil to resign from his post and initiate an overhaul in the way chief justices are selected.
Haris Azhar, coordinator of the Commission for Disappearance and Victims of Violence, said: “The mechanism to elect him was very political. The chief justice is chosen by three institutions namely the Supreme Court, President and House of Representatives.
“All three institutions choose their own men, not the right man for the Constitutional Court.”
In the wake of the charges, the Constitutional Court recommends Akil’s suspension.
The chief justice’s ongoing cases will also be reassigned to other judges in the Constitutional Court while awaiting a replacement to fill his post.The case has caused an uproar from the high office of the Presidency right down to ordinary villagers.
Hundreds of protestors also travelled to Jakarta to demand a review of Akil’s ruling regarding a contested election in Lebak, Banten.
President Yudhoyono was shocked to hear of the news and even held a televised press conference at the State Palace.
On Friday afternoon, the KPK announced they had found illegal narcotics in Akil’s office but have yet to confirm whether or not the drugs belonged to him.