Jakarta – Chief Security Minister Mohammad Mahfud MD has stirred debate with a claim that there were "underground movements" to influence judges' decisions on the high-profile murder trial against former police general Ferdy Sambo.
Mahfud, who also chairs oversight body the National Police Commission (Kompolnas), said last week that he had heard of attempts by "high-level security officials" to determine court verdicts with messages expressed by "alphabets or numbers".
"Some wanted Sambo to be acquitted, some wanted him to be sentenced. You can rest assured that prosecutors remain independent and won't be affected by such underground movements," he was quoted by Antara news agency as saying.
His remarks came after prosecutors demanded a life sentence for Ferdy, who is accused of ordering the murder of subordinate Brigadier Nofriansyah Yosua Hutabarat. Ferdy is believed to remain influential among the elite of the National Police.
But the minister called on whoever gets information about attempts by top officers to influence the court to report to him.
He said if a police brigadier general attempted to influence the trial, he will bring in a major general.
"And if you have a major general attempting to put pressure on the court or prosecutors, then I have a lieutenant general here," Mahfud said.
Does what Mahfud said as a key member of the executive branch of the government tantamount to an intervention in the ongoing court proceedings? That's the key question asked by BTV host Fristian Griec during Tuesday night's talk show with legal experts.
"What I understand is that the minister has the authority to reveal any information which is very useful to law enforcement officials other than the judges," former Supreme Court justice Gayus Lumbuun said.
While the prosecutors' office is under the government's control, judges are strictly protected from any external influence including from the government, Gayus said.
There was a time when Indonesia adopted a law telling judges that they in fact aren't independent in making verdicts.
The law adopted in 1964 rules that "the president reserves the right to intervene [in court decisions] for the interests of the yet-to-be accomplished revolution", Gayus told Fristian.
"But in the 1970s the article was amended with a new one stating that judges cannot be influenced by any means of intervention," Gayus said.
Kompolnas member Benny Mamoto said what Mahfud said was more like a warning to all legal agencies to remain professional in handling the case, which attracts nationwide attention.
"[Mahfud] has a lot of information network so when he delivered those remarks he was certainly backed up by data," Benny said at the BTV studio in Jakarta.
"It means he is committed to preventing new victims from falling – reminding [police generals] that they can be the next. Many [officers] have fallen into the trap built by Sambo," Benny said, apparently making reference to six officers who are being tried for allegedly tampering with evidence and the crime scene in attempts to protect Ferdy from murder charges.