National

More than just a fashion
statement

It has become somewhat of a fashion for some women who were dragged before the Lady of Justice to give the public an idea about how pious they are. They wear religious attire or demand a priest visit them behind bars.

A former Citibank manager, 49-year-old Malinda Dee, who was found guilty earlier this year by the South Jakarta District Court for embezzlement and money laundering, arguably set the “standard”.

Malinda, a Jakarta socialite, suddenly put on a black head scarf as her signature style after she was arrested on March 23 in 2011 for embezzling Rp 44 billion (US$4.88 million) from her clients at Citibank.

Meanwhile, Afriyani Susanti, 29, the drunk driver who killed nine pedestrians near Gambir station in January, also wears a head scarf when she attends trial at the Central Jakarta District Court.

The most recent model was Neneng Sri Wahyuni, the wife of convicted former treasurer of Democratic Party Muhammad Nazaruddin, who dressed in a brown veil and head scarf when leaving the Corruption Eradication Commission’s headquarters in Jakarta last week.

A suspect of a graft-ridden 2008 solar power equipment project at the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry, she was finally apprehended two weeks ago last week at her home in Pejaten, South Jakarta, after being a fugitive for more than a year.

Neneng’s pictures published on the Interpol’s website when she was still at large showed her long hair falling to her shoulders.

Last year, businesswoman Dharnawati, who was imprisoned for her involvement in a bribery case related to resettlement infrastructure development projects in Papua, also showed a similar style when apprehended by the KPK.

Her former lawyer, Muhammad Burhanuddin, told The Jakarta Post that Dharnawati’s decision to mask her appearance was more triggered by her fear of the media rather than any religious teachings.

“She told me that having her family getting media attention was the last thing on her mind,” Burhanuddin said Sunday, adding that his former client was a single parent. “Basically, if women only wear the apparel after they were locked up, it could only mean two things: fear of exposure or attempting to catch public sympathy.”

Graft suspect and former Bank Indonesia top official Miranda Goeltom asked the KPK to allow her priest to visit her in her detention cell, while Democratic Party lawmaker, Angelina Sondakh, who converted to Islam after marrying fellow legislator, the late Adjie Massaid, demanded a Koran.

Criminologist Erlangga Masdiana told the Post separately that the suspects had created such drama in the hope that society would see their positive sides. He added that the trick was also meant to avoid further humiliation to them and their families.

“They are trying to minimize media hype with a hope that, should they become a free women after serving their prison sentence, people will not remember their appearance anyway,” he said.

Erlangga was optimistic that law enforcers and the judges would remain neutral in doing their job in spite of the suspects’ sudden change of style.

The trend apparently caught the attention of the hard-liner group Islam Defenders Front (FPI). The organization’s spokesman, Munarman, said Friday that the emergence of women wearing such clothing was an insult toward Islam.

“This is offensive; nowadays some Muslim women have this trend to use head scarves and veils only when they are facing the law. As if by using the attire the their crimes are covered as well,” he said.

KPK deputy chairman Busyro Muqoddas told the Post that his office could not prohibit graft suspects from suddenly turning to religion.

“Rest assured that should they have ulterior motives, as it would be no of use because the investigation would run objectively,” he said. (asa)

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