Govt to cut graft convicts’
prison terms for Idul Fitri

A top prison official said the prison terms of 300 people convicted of corruption would be reduced for Idul Fitri festival, despite criticism of similar remissions for Independence Day in August.

The Justice and Human Rights Ministry’s director general for penitentiaries, Untung Sugiyono, said Wednesday that 1,415 convicts would be released and 41,408 would have their sentences reduced, including hundreds imprisoned for corruption.

“We haven’t issued an exact number of people convicted of corruption because we are still examining the files one by one,” he said.

Untung said the convicts who would receive remissions for Idul Fitri were Muslims who had already served at least one-third of their sentences.

“It is the right of the public to criticize. We only implement the law,” he said.

He added that the ministry would welcome a change in the law to exclude people convicted of corruption from sentence remissions.

Untung said that life sentences would end the controversy on remissions.

“I agree with life sentences because then the convicts would never get remissions,” he said.  

On Independence Day of Aug. 17, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono pardoned corruption convict Syaukani Hasan Rais, the former regent of Kutai Kartanegara, who was said to suffer from paralysis and blindness.

The government also gave “conditional freedom” to Aulia Pohan, the father-in-law of Yudhoyono’s oldest son.

Aulia was convicted of corruption in the disbursement of Rp 100 billion from the central bank’s Indonesian Banking Development Foundation  in 2003.

Donal Fariz of the Indonesia Corruption Watch said the government would make a serious mistake if it granted the remissions, especially after last month’s incident, which saw the sentences of 43 percent of all prisoners convicted of corruption reduced.

“The government must abandon its nominal rationale for granting remissions, which is ‘implementation of the law’,” he said.    

“It should also pay attention to justice ... The remissions will weaken our systematic efforts to fight corruption,” he added.    

“The argument the government always uses — a  need to be humane —  is not clear. It doesn’t resolve our current problem with corruption, which is that it is a crime against humanity,” he said.   

Dion said that the government should examine the idea of revising the law regulating remissions for people convicted of corruption.  

“If the government still has the will to fight corruption, it should take the initiative and revise the law,” Donal said.   

“Its commitment to end corruption and its sensitivity to public criticism are being put to the test,” he added.

Activist Haris Rusli said that granting sentence remissions to people convicted of corruption “greatly injured” the nation’s serious efforts eradicate corruption.

“It is highly unfair because corrupt people, who have political connections and financial means, are the ones who receive remissions,” he said.

He added that the corruption convicts who have failed to escape the law have now found “political ways” to decrease their sentences.

“Now they find it acceptable to be sentenced to five years imprisonment because they know they can launch political lobbying efforts later to reduce their jail time,” he said.

“The government knows that public protests will eventually die down,” he said. (lnd)

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