Nivell Rayda & Heru Andriyanto
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Monday publicly outlined a face-saving solution to the months-long scandal engulfing the country’s law enforcement agencies, saying he believed the best option was for the case against two antigraft leaders not to be taken to court.
In a statement broadcast nationwide, Yudhoyono said that as head of state it was not within his authority to halt the National Police’s investigation into or the Attorney General’s Office’s prosecution of the case.
He was referring to the case against Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) deputies Bibit Samad Rianto and Chandra M Hamzah, whom the police suspect of extortion and abuse of power. The case came under intense public scrutiny after the Constitutional Court played back recordings of telephone conversations, wiretapped by the KPK, that appeared to show efforts to fabricate charges against the pair.
“The other better solution and option that can be taken by the police and prosecutors is to not take this case to court, while continuing to abide by the principle of justice,” Yudhoyono said.
It is a week since the president received a recommendation, from a team he had set up to look into the case, that the police and prosecutors drop the charges against the two deputies. His comments echoed those he made on Sunday at a gathering of media editors.
Yudhoyono did not elaborate on how the police could halt their investigation or the Attorney General’s Office drop the case.
His comments were seen by some as deliberately vague, but are likely to be understood within the law enforcement agencies as tantamount to an order for the case to be halted.
Minutes after the speech, Marwan Effendy, the deputy attorney general for special crimes, said his institution “understands the president instructed an out-of-court settlement, and let us decide how to do this.”
He said that the better of the two options presented would be to use the AGO’s right to declare a case unworthy of trial.
“We will first declare that the case is complete, that we have evidence against the suspects, but the case was just not worth trying,” he said. “We will instruct the district office to drop the case.”
But National Police deputy spokesman Sulistyo Ishak said: “We will first study the president’s order. It will be followed up. But as to what the next action will be, just wait and see.”
He would not comment further, but a senior police official, who declined to be named, told the Jakarta Globe the only legal avenue for the police was to freeze the case. “We would neither stop nor process” the cases, the source said.
In his statement, Yudhoyono said he had initially believed that it was best for Bibit and Chandra to face trial, “on condition that the investigation and the prosecution process got strong public support and, of course, that these processes be fair, objective and based on strong evidence.”
However, what developed was instead a strong public distrust of the police and prosecutors, he said, adding that therefore other factors had to be taken into account, citing public opinion, social cohesion and the likelihood of a gap between the law and justice.
Taufik Basari, the lawyer for Bibit and Chandra, said the president’s remarks needed further examination and explanation.
“We still don’t understand what [Yudhoyono’s] decisions are. There is still nothing that we can hold on to,” he said.
“I sense that he wants the case to stop but to leave it to the police or the AGO to determine the exact mechanisms for how the case should be dropped.”
Additional reporting by Camelia Pasandaran & Farouk Arnaz