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West Papua legislators found guilty of graft

Jakarta Post - February 11, 2014

Nethy Dharma Somba, Jayapura – The Jayapura Corruption Court sentenced on Monday former West Papua Legislative Council (DPRD) speaker Yosef Yohan Auri to 15 months in jail and fined him Rp 50 million (US$4,100) for misappropriating Rp 22 billion that initially came from the West Papua provincial budget in 2010.

The funds had been allocated to provincial-owned enterprise PT Padoma Doberai Mandiri (PT Padoma) as capital. Judge Khairul Fuad, who is also head of the Jayapura District Court, presided over the trial, in which all 44 members of the West Papua DPRD had been implicated.

The verdict was similar to that handed to former West Papua DPRD deputy speaker Robert Melianus Nauw and former West Papua provincial secretary Marthen Luter Rumadas, while West Papua DPRD deputy speaker Jimmy Demianus Idjie and PT Padoma managing director Mamad Suhadi were sentenced to 12 months and fined Rp 50 million each.

The five defendants were proven guilty of violating the Corruption Law. They received different sentences despite the fact that prosecutors earlier sought 18-month sentences and Rp 50 million fines for all of them. According to Khairul, they played different roles in the case.

"Three of the defendants were sentenced to 15 months because they initiated the crime, while the other two executed the plan hatched by the others," said Khairul.

Their lawyer, Piet Ell, said he supported the rulings but would strive to get his clients released. "This should be a civil case because it was a matter of loaning money. The money has been returned, so I believe my clients should be acquitted," said Piet.

Yosef said he would appeal the sentence, adding that the state had not suffered losses as the borrowed money had been returned. Prosecutor Frenkie Son said he would consider whether to appeal against the ruling.

In previous hearings, it was revealed that the Rp 22 billion was part of capital allocated to PT Padoma by the provincial administration for a program on natural resources management, development, trade and industry and services.

PT Padoma was established in 2009, with capital of Rp 100 billion injected by the provincial administration. The 44 councilors allegedly borrowed Rp 22 billion from the company in September 2010 to pay for personal assets, such as houses and cars, as well as to cover personal expenses.

Law observer Gustav Kawer criticized the ruling, saying that sentences of slightly more than one year for graft was an indication that the "judicial mafia" had played a role in the court's decision.

"Corruption cases are considered special and those involved should be punished harshly, but instead judges at the Jayapura Corruption Court handed down light sentences," said Gustav.