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Major blow to antigraft efforts as Supreme Court paves way for more reduced sentences

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Jakarta Post - October 2, 2020

Galih Gumelar, Jakarta – The Supreme Court has once again come under fire for undermining the antigraft movement, this time for reducing the graft sentence of former Democratic Party chairman Anas Urbaningrum in a recent case review, setting another precedent for other graft convicts to methodically seek reduced sentences.

On Wednesday, a panel of three Supreme Court justices led by Sunarto reduced Anas' prison sentence from the initial 14 years to just eight years, according to a copy of the ruling obtained by The Jakarta Post.

The justices also demanded Anas, who served as party chief between 2010 to 2013, pay a fine of Rp 300 million (US$20,164), which, if not paid, would see him serve an extra three months' imprisonment.

He was found guilty by the Jakarta Corruption Court in 2014 for accepting Rp 20 billion among other gratuities in relation to the construction of the Hambalang Sports Complex in Bogor, West Java, a project that also entangled other Dems officials.

Anas was sentenced to eight years in prison, but the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) later successfully appealed for a tougher sentence at the Supreme Court, which increased his term to 14 years.

But Wednesday saw three justices from the same court reduce the sentence back to eight years, based on a case review that Anas himself submitted in 2018. The court ruled that the previous judges who dealt with the KPK appeal based their ruling on the wrong evidence and convicted the politician using the wrong article of the 2001 Corruption Law.

Anas has now become the 23rd graft convict to be granted leniency by the Supreme Court in the past year.

Just a day prior to the issuance of the ruling, the KPK said 22 graft convicts had received lighter sentences after their case reviews were approved by the court between 2019 to 2020. The KPK said it had yet to receive copies of any of those rulings from the court.

Critics were quick to point out the leniency of the court's decision, accusing it of doling out reduced sentences to graft convicts with ease. They also say the move will pose a bigger threat to Indonesia's anticorruption efforts in the future.

KPK commissioner Nawawi Pomolango said the court had never published the legal reasoning and arguments behind such rulings and this served to undermine public faith in the court's capability to mete out the appropriate punishment to graft convicts.

"Now, the public can make their own decision as to whether such court rulings truly represent the country's anticorruption efforts," Nawawi told the Post on Thursday.

This is not the first time the commission has expressed its disappointment at the court this year.

In June, the KPK also lamented the court's decision to reject a KPK appeal against a not-guilty verdict handed down by the Jakarta Corruption Court to former head of state-run electricity company PLN Sofyan Basir. The commission had previously detained Sofyan for allegedly accepting bribes in relation to a coal-fired power plant project in Riau.

Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) has also criticized the court for having no commitment to eradicating corruption. The antigraft watchdog found that lower and higher courts – including the Supreme Court – handed down not-guilty verdicts to 41 graft suspects in 2019, almost double the number in 2018.

Zaenur Rohman, a researcher for Gadjah Mada University's Center for Anticorruption Studies (Pukat UGM), said that lenient treatment for graft convicts had become more frequent since former justice Artidjo Alkostar left the court in 2018.

Artidjo, who is now a member of the KPK's oversight body, was known for his no-nonsense demeanor and clean track record. He made graft convicts think twice before appealing, as he often gave them harsher sentences than those they initially recieved. Artidjo was also one of the court justices who accepted the KPK's appeal against Anas' sentencing in 2015.

"I sense that graft convicts seem to have taken advantage of Artidjo's departure from the court to seek any reduction in their sentences, and I'm afraid that more graft convicts will use the same method," Zaenur said.

"What's the point of eradicating corruption if those who have committed wrongdoing keep receiving lighter and lighter sentences? There will no longer be any deterrent effect left in the end."

Kurnia Ramadhana of the ICW said that the court's rulings, along with other lenient decisions in favor of graft convicts, would defeat the KPK's efforts at combating corruption.

Both Kurnia and Zaenur urged the Judicial Commission to trace any violation of the ethical code by judges who have dealt with case reviews in graft cases.

The court, however, is adamant that all of its graft case reviews are based on the principle of a fair trial, stressing that judges must remain independent before issuing any ruling.

"I suggest those who question the rulings read them thoroughly before criticizing them," said Supreme Court spokesman Abdullah.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/10/02/major-blow-to-antigraft-efforts-as-supreme-court-paves-way-for-more-reduced-sentences.html

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