The Judicial Mafia Taskforce is looking into allegations that case brokers played a role in a number of illegal logging cases as the country strives to protect forests to fulfill a pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Taskforce member Mas Achmad Santosa said they were studying controversial verdicts in illegal logging cases, including the case of fugitive convict Adelin Lis who fled the country after the Supreme Court sentenced him to 10 years in prison.
“We suspect the judicial mafia played a key role in the illegal logging cases,” he told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.
He said the taskforce would initially focus on cases occurring after 2000 and probe the involvement of official in these cases.
“Our target is to investigate major illegal logging cases in large forests involving officials,” Achmad said, adding that the taskforce planned to meet the Judicial Commission this week to discuss logging mafia and the Adelin case.
He said the taskforce had studied documents on certain verdicts. He didn’t identify any specific cases.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ordered the taskforce to investigate illegal logging networks earlier this month.
The President issued an instruction in 2005 tasking 18 departments under the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister’s Office to root out illegal logging.
The ministry set up a working group to monitor and evaluate illegal logging, but it has not publicly named any major suspects.
Former forestry minister M.S Kaban has repeatedly claimed that the number of illegal logging cases dropped during his tenure that began in 2004.
The controversial Adelin case took place in 2006 after North Sumatra Police charged Adelin with illegally felling trees in protected areas in Mandailing Natal regency and Batang Gadis National Park, both in North Sumatra.
The Medan District Court, however, acquitted Adelin of all charges. The Supreme Court annulled the ruling, convicting Adelin of illegal logging and sentencing him to 10 years in prison.
However, Adelin fled the country before an arrest could be made.
Indonesia has the world’s third largest forested area with 120 million hectares of rainforest. However, 1 million hectares are lost annually to forest fires and illegal logging.
Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan said his office had a target of reducing illegal logging cases to 12 or less per year. There were 700 reported cases in 2008.
The ministry estimated the financial loss from illegal logging at Rp 30 trillion (US$3.3 billion) per year.
On Friday Zulkifli reported to the President that primary forests in Indonesia now only made up 24 percent of total forest cover from the previous 71 percent.
Communications and Information Technology Minister Tifatul Sembiring said the President expressed concern over forest damage.
Tifatul said the President ordered the taskforce to find out why many illegal logging suspects received lenient sentences or were acquitted.
He said that of 92 suspects, 49 were acquitted, 24 received a one-year prison sentence and the others received sentences of between one and two years.