A thirst for blood and double standards in the graft-tainted prosecutor’s office were behind the push to sentence to death former anticorruption czar Antasari Azhar and two co-defendants in the murder of businessman Nasrudin Zulkarnaen, critics said on Wednesday.
Usman Hamid, chairman of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), expressed concerns that prosecutors were driven by outside interests in recommending the death penalty for Antasari, who uncovered a humiliating bribery scandal at the Attorney General’s Office in 2008 when he was at the helm of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).
Antasari previously served as a prosecutor himself for more than 20 years before taking up the top post at the KPK in 2007.
“The demand for a death sentence [in this case] is based on obscure facts about the murder presented by prosecutors,” he said. “They have failed to assure the public that Antasari was the brains behind the crime, so I’m afraid that more convicts are in danger of erroneous executions based on wrongful convictions.”
Usman said Kontras opposed capital punishment, “in particular because our own justice system is not free from corruption and political influences that make our courts highly vulnerable to errors,” he said. “Once a death-row convict is executed, then those errors cannot be undone.”
But it was not just the experts who were expressing doubts on Wednesday, with members of the public also raising questions about the prosecution’s shambolic case.
Agus Marwo Prianto, 38, a commuter living in Bekasi who has followed the trial since it began in October, said he was not sure Antasari had ordered the murder as claimed by prosecutors.
“I don’t think Antasari is powerful enough to be the mastermind of a high-profile murder case. Especially after Susno Duadji appeared as a witness for him,” he said, referring to the former National Police chief of detectives who made a surprise appearance as a defense witness at a recent hearing.
Even though Susno’s own office had investigated the murder case and brought Antasari to trial, he told the court about “unusual procedures” carried out during the investigation. He said his deputy at the time, Hadiatmoko, had taken charge of the case and had reported directly to National Police Chief Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri.
The AGO on Wednesday acknowledged that it had taken part in drafting the death sentence demand for Antasari and two other suspects accused of organizing the mafia-style killing, policeman Wiliardi Wizar and businessman Sigid Haryo Wibisono.
The five men charged with actually carrying out the murder have already been convicted and were sentenced at the Tangerang District Court in December to jail terms of between 17 and 18 years.
Deputy attorney general for general crimes, Kamal Sofyan, said the AGO had to take into account the demand for the five hitmen to receive life sentences. “There we demanded life sentences for them, so there’s no way we were going to propose more lenient sentences here,” he said. “We are just following the rules.”
According to the law, masterminds who organize crimes should receive heavier sentences than their accomplices.