Gone is the Corruption Eradication Commission’s (KPK) proud 100 percent success rate in jailing graft suspects after a local corruption court in Bandung acquitted Bekasi Mayor Mochtar Mohamad of all bribery charges on Tuesday.
Prior to the case, all graft defendants whose cases were handled by the KPK had been jailed. Mochtar’s case is also the first KPK graft case to have been tried at a regional corruption court since the enactment of the 2009 Anticorruption Law that mandated all local corruption cases to be tried in local tribunals.
As a number of lawmakers pushed for the dissolution of KPK, antigraft activists expressed concern that the exoneration of the Bekasi Mayor could be the start of KPK failures at regional levels, confirming previous fears that regional graft courts would free graft defendants and undermine the KPK’s credibility.
Presiding judge Asharyadi Pri Kusuma cleared Mochtar of all four charges of corruption, including his alleged role in efforts to rig the selection of Bekasi as winner of the Adipura cleanliness award in 2010.
He was also accused of bribing the City Council to approve the 2010 budget and was held responsible for violations in the 2009 city budget.
In the bribery case, Mochtar was accused of conspiring with Bekasi secretary Tjandra Utama Effendi, who was sentenced to prison in June 2010 for paying a Rp 4.25 billion bribe to Lilik Haryoso, the head of the budget agency at the Bekasi Legislative Council. The bribe was intended to speed up the council’s approval of the city budget.
Ketut Sumedana, the KPK prosecutor, alleged that the judges were biased in delivering the verdict as they had overlooked the prosecutors’ evidence of documents, letters and money.
Ketut said that his team faced difficulties when gathering evidence of Rp 4 billion in bribes because the money had allegedly been divided equally among every member of the City Council. “We have Rp 200 million confiscated as proof. How come the judges did not take this into consideration?” he said after the trial.
His team had previously demanded that the judges sentence Mochtar to 12 years in prison.
Ketut declined to accept the blame for the acquittal. “Our prosecution was not weak. We built the case against Mochtar on four charges in one indictment yet none of them were proven. It is sick,” he said.
KPK spokesperson Johan Budi backed Ketut saying that the prosecutors always discussed their cases first with the director of prosecutions and the KPK leaders, adding that the KPK would appeal to the Supreme Court.
The corruption court in Jakarta has never acquitted a suspect since it was established in 2002 under the KPK law.
This run prompted a number of graft convicts to challenge the Jakarta Court’s legality at the Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court granted their request and declared the court unconstitutional. In 2009, the government enacted a special law on corruption courts that ordered the establishment of ad-hoc courts in 33 provinces.
As of today, the Supreme Court has only managed to establish 18 ad-hoc courts, including the one in Jakarta, as well as others in Bandung, Semarang and Surabaya.
Emerson Yuntho from the Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) said that the local tribunals had not got the capability nor enough integrity to try graft cases. “This is what we were all afraid of: the acquittal of a KPK defendant. This will set a bad precedent for the next cases tried in local tribunals.”
He added that it was harder to monitor a trial at a local level, particularly big corruption cases. “Not to mention the poor judges and the recruitment process by the Supreme Court of adhoc judges,” he said.
Judicial Commission monitoring division chief Suparman Marzuki also questioned the verdict, saying that the commission would study the verdict soon.
“Actually, we have been monitoring that court as there have been allegations that the judges possibly violated ethics in other cases,” he added.
Previously, the Bandung graft court had acquitted several graft defendants that had been handled by the police or prosecutors.
The court cleared Subang regent Eep Hidayat and Bogor deputy mayor Ahmad Ru’yat in two different graft cases recently.