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Freeze local graft courts:
KY

The Judicial Commission (KY) wants the Supreme Court to suspend trials at local Corruption Courts pending an overhaul, noting irregularities in how corruption judges issue verdicts.

Under the proposal, all cases currently being tried by local corruption courts would be suspended or transferred to the Jakarta Corruption Court.

Critics claim that local Corruption Court judges have been too lenient on corruptors, allowing the acquittal of some graft defendants — including defendants prosecuted by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

Forty graft defendants prosecuted by the KPK or local prosecutor’s offices have been acquitted by local corruption tribunals this year to date, including four defendants exonerated by the Bandung Corruption Court, one in Semarang, Central Java; 14 in Samarinda, East Kalimantan; and 21 in Surabaya, East Java.

“There is a trend for judges at local corruption tribunals to acquit defendants,” Taufiqurrohman Syahuri, the KY’s judicial recruitment division chief, told The Jakarta Post on Sunday. “There is a possibility that these acquittals were made by not following judicial precedents.”

He said there was something “suspicious” about the acquittals.

The commission has sent a team to Bandung to examine the controversial acquittal of Bekasi Mayor Mochtar Mohamad, the first defendant cleared of graft charges levied by the KPK, which previously had a 100 percent success rate in prosecuting graft.

It was reported that one of the judges handing the trial, Ramlan Comel, was acquitted of graft allegations by an appellate court in 2005.

Mochtar’s was the first case investigated and prosecuted by the KPK that was tried at a regional corruption court since the courts were established in 17 cities as mandated by the 2009 Corruption Law.

“This week, we will send a team to Samarinda to do a similar examination,” he said. The commission, which is tasked with overseeing judicial conduct and sanctioning corrupt judges, will examine the Samarinda Corruption Court’s acquittal of 14 members of the Kutai Kartanegara Legislative Council due to lack of evidence. The case was handled by the local prosecutors’ office.

Taufiqurrohman said that the examinations were needed to determine whether the judges made ethical violations when deliberating the cases.

“We will determine whether they have been dishonest in their legal deliberations or were partial and biased in delivering verdicts,” he said. “Maybe they ignored evidence presented before the court, just as in Mochtar’s case.”

The commission, he said, was now assessing the competency and credibility of ad hoc judges and career judges recently appointed to local corruption tribunals. “We want to review their conduct and gauge their perceptions about the Corruption Court, the judiciary and justice itself,” he said.

Although Constitutional Court chief justice Mahfud MD has called for the courts to be abolished following the acquittals, such a move is unlikely.

Many recall that the Constiutional Court, under its first chief, Jimly Asshiddique, called for creation of local graft courts to avoid double standards in fighting graft.

The Constitutional Court ruled in 2006 that the Jakarta Corruption Court, then the only corruption court, was unconstitutional because its authority to try corruption cases overlapped district courts, creating legal uncertainties.

Jimly told the Post that people should not be quick to abandon regional corruption courts, saying that the inadequate monitoring or weak cases might be at fault.

He suggested reducing the number of the regional courts to ease monitoring.

The Judicial Commission has also balked at scrapping local graft courts. “The best solution for now, is for the Supreme Court to issue a policy to bring all local cases to the Jakarta Corruption Court temporarily until we are done with the review,” Taufiqurrahman said.

Supreme Court justice and spokesman Hatta Ali dismissed the suggestion. “There is no way we will freeze local tribunals since the law stipulates that we must establish local corruption tribunals in 33 provinces,” he told the Post.

Hatta said that the Supreme Court would not evaluate the local tribunals as a system.

“Should we evaluate it, we will only review the human resources, the judges. Although we might give extra training to them for capacity building,” he said.

Lawyer Hotma Sitompoel, who previously represented corruption suspects, said it was not fair to blame local courts for exonerating graft defendants.

“Maybe the prosecutors just cannot prove them guilty,” he said. “It will not be fair if all graft defendants must serve time in jail; remember they are only suspects until proven guilty,” he said. (rpt)

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