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Jokowi refuses to defend Syahrul as witness in ex-minister's graft trial

Jakarta Post - June 10, 2024

Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has refused a request from Syahrul Yasin Limpo to testify for the defense in his corruption trial, with the Presidential Palace saying that the President's testimony would be irrelevant to the case.

Presidential expert staffer Dini Shanti Purwono said the President only knew the former agriculture minister in his official capacity and had no knowledge of Syahrul's personal affairs.

"The court is investigating what Syahrul did in his personal life, not in his capacity as an [aide] to the president. The President doesn't have any capacity to comment on the personal matters of his staff," Dini said on Saturday, as quoted by Kompas.com.

Syahrul, a NasDem Party politician who was arrested last October by investigators from the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), is currently standing trial at the Jakarta Corruption Court on charges related to soliciting bribes and accepting gratuities from his subordinates at the Agriculture Ministry.

KPK prosecutors accused him of pocketing a total of Rp 44.5 billion (US$2.83 million) between January 2020 and October 2023 while he was heading the ministry.

Prosecutors alleged that in 2020, Syahrul instructed four subordinates to pool money from the ministry's echelon I officials to use for personal purposes, including buying cars, gifts and apartments and paying for dermatology treatments and umrah (minor haj) trips.

Each secretariat, directorate general and agency at the ministry was required to give 20 percent of their budget to Syahrul, although the official budget contained no such allocation specifically for the minister, according to KPK prosecutors.

The funds were to be provided as though the officials had a debt to Syahrul, who allegedly threatened to demote or dismiss his subordinates if they failed to fulfill his demand.

Aside from the President, Syahrul's legal team has also sent requests to Vice President Ma'ruf Amin, former vice president Jusuf Kalla and Coordinating Economic Minister Airlangga Hartarto to appear as witnesses for the defense.

Kalla's spokesperson Husain Abdullah said the former vice president would not testify for the defense in Syahrul's graft trial, although the two politicians are perceived to have a close personal relationship.

"It is a legal matter, it's not about whether [Syahrul and Kalla] are personally close. It's irrelevant for Kalla to stand as the defense's witness for Syahrul," Husain said.

He added that Kalla, who was vice president during Jokowi's first term in 2014-2019, did not have any knowledge of the alleged graft that occurred under Syahrul's tenure as agriculture minister during the President's second term. (nal)

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/indonesia/2024/06/10/jokowi-refuses-to-defend-syahrul-as-witness-in-ex-ministers-graft-trial.htm