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Politics, lawsuits jeopardize
Corby’s clemency

In this Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2005 file photo, former beauty student Schapelle Leigh Corby, center, who is currently serving 20 years in an Indonesian prison for drug smuggling, is escorted by police officers after her appeal hearing at the district court in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia.(AP/Firdia Lisnawati, File)

Critics of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono have promised to take action in the House and the courts to overturn his decision to grant clemency to Australian drug convict Schapelle Corby.

Politicians, experts and activists have accused Yudhoyono of weak diplomacy after he approved a five-year cut to the prison sentence of Corby, who was convicted of smuggling marijuana.

People’s Conscience Party (Hanura) lawmaker Sarifuddin Sudding said that several of his peers had agreed to initiate an interpellation, which might see Yudhoyono or his ministers appear before a House of Representatives plenary session to discuss the clemency decision.

“We need to get clear and comprehensive explanations. The President’s aides have indeed made public statements — but their statements in fact contradict each other,” Sudding said.

Although it would be some time before an interpellation could run its course, government officials have responded seriously to the lawmakers.

“It is the House’s right to initiate the interpellation — but it certainly looks politically motivated,” Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Djoko Suyanto said.

The 2009 Legislative Bodies Law says an interpellation proposal can be brought before a House plenary meeting if it is supported by at least 25 lawmakers from more than one political party.

Henry Yosodiningrat, the prominent lawyer who leads the National Anti-Narcotics Movement (Granat), said he would file a lawsuit against Yudhoyono to challenge his decision to grant Corby clemency.

“The President has been being inconsistent in handling drug-related crimes. He has previously said he would not be lenient with criminals convicted of drug-related offenses, but this time he reduced the sentence of a foreigner who has been convicted of smuggling a large amount of marijuana,” Henry said.

Henry said he believed that the clemency was granted for political reasons, alleging that there might be a connection to Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s vow during her campaign to see Corby freed while she was in office.

“The clemency could also set a precedent in the sense that other foreign drug convicts might also seek clemency with the help of their governments by putting pressure on our government,” he said.

Henry said he would cooperate with several others in filing the lawsuit, including top state administrative law expert and former law and human rights minister Yusril Ihza Mahendra.

Yusril, who reportedly has nurtured a grudge against Yudhoyono since he was fired as state secretary in 2008, has used his legal acumen to win several high-profile lawsuits against Yudhoyono’s government.

Yusril’s most-notable achievement was last year, when Yudhoyono was forced to dismiss Hendarman Supandji as attorney general after Yusril successfully challenged the legal basis for his appointment at the Constitutional Court.

Although no Indonesian court has ever overturned a presidential grant of clemency, Yusril said he was optimistic. “There was a decision from the Supreme Court that overturned the remission of a convict’s prison sentence.”

Yusril was referring to the case of Rudy Sutadi, whose 22 months’ of remissions on document forgery and battery convictions were challenged in court by his ex-wife.

University of Indonesia (UI) law expert Hikmahanto Juwana said Yudhoyono’s decision to grant clemency to Corby could at best be considered a blunder, or at worst, a violation of national law.

“Indonesia has ratified the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances with its 1997 Anti-Narcotics Law,” he said in a press statement.

He said the law clearly stipulated the government had to provide solid explanations behind any decision to grant remission to an inmate convicted of drug charges.

“It is time for the President to answer the call, explaining to us why he made that decision. If his explanation is unacceptable, then Yudhoyono could be considered as breaking the law himself,” he said.

— JP/Bagus BT Saragih

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