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Jakarta Post

All eyes on Sarpin, lone judge in Budi pretrial

  • Haeril Halim

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, February 16, 2015   /  06:34 am
All eyes on Sarpin, lone judge in Budi pretrial

The pressure could not be any higher for Sarpin Rizaldi, the sole judge presiding over the pretrial hearing of a lawsuit against the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) lodged by Comr. Gen. Budi Gunawan, who has challenged the legality of the antigraft body'€™s decision to name him a bribery suspect.

His decision today (Monday) is expected by the public to end the standoff between the KPK and the police. President Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo said he would decide whether to proceed with his nomination of Budi based on what Sarpin decided.

On a more technical level, things have not been easy for Sarpin.

Not one article in the Criminal Law Procedures Code (KUHAP) grants the authority for a court to challenge someone'€™s legal status through a pretrial mechanism, but the South Jakarta District Court decided to give the go-ahead for the hearing, saying that it could not reject pretrial proposals.

The court'€™s decision to accept Budi'€™s pretrial motion has put Sarpin in a Catch-22 situation. If he confirms the KPK'€™s decision on Budi as valid, he will likely be hailed as a champion of the antigraft campaign, but if he rules in favor of Budi, a graft suspect in the center of a national political game, he will likely become a public enemy, which could further tarnish his reputation as a controversial judge with a penchant for issuing dubious verdicts.

Reports of threats against the KPK investigators handling Budi'€™s case and intimidation of officials from the antigraft body'€™s legal division have also put pressure on Sarpin.

The Judicial Commission said that it was concerned about Sarpin'€™s safety.

On Wednesday last week, the commission issued a statement saying that it would provide maximum security for Sarpin and members of his family at least until he delivered the verdict on the pretrial motion.

'€œThere have been many threats and intimidation. This is not what we expected. After learning about the current situation we then decided to provide additional security for judge Sarpin,'€ commission commissioner Imam Anshori said.

The commission has also assigned a team to monitor the hearing, given Sarpin'€™s history in handling trials.

The commission has received complaints in eight separate cases alleging that Sarpin had accepted bribes to rule in favor of certain defendants.

With the monitoring team, the commission wanted Sarpin to issue an '€œimpartial and independent'€ verdict.

The team has thus far found no indication of foul play and according to the commission, Monday'€™s verdict is likely to be '€œclean'€.

Sarpin himself has been undeterred by the threats and pressure.

On Thursday, Sarpin, who was not allowed to talk to the media regarding the ongoing hearing, said that he was not afraid and that God was his only guardian.

'€œI never asked for protection and didn'€™t have security guards until today,'€ Sarpin said.

But even if he does issue an impartial ruling on Monday, questions will linger about some of his alleged misdeeds in the past.

Sarpin has been reported to the KPK by a number civil-society groups for a number of irregularities, including his decision to acquit a former Ciracas subdistrict head, whom prosecutors said deserved a seven-year prison term for graft.

He was also deemed as too lenient in handing down a prison term to two drugs convicts in 2008.

But the commission says some of the reports are unsubstantiated and that it is still working to find evidence for any of Sarpin'€™s alleged wrongdoings.