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Indonesians Rise Up Against  'Judicial Mafia'

  • Katie Hamann

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Two senior members of Indonesia's judiciary have resigned amid an escalating corruption scandal that has held the country in enthralled for several weeks. Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono made a direct appeal to the public for calm, amid growing pressure to reign in the excesses of the countries police and judiciary.

Camped in front of the offices of Indonesia's formidable CorruptionEradication Commission or KPK, student activists have staged a hunger strike in recent days, demanding that those apparently seeking the destruction of the KPK be brought to justice.

Taking shelter from the unforgiving midday heat, 20 year-old law student Miftahudin, hasn't eaten for four days.

He says he will fast until all of the corruption cases are handled and he is doing it in solidarity with all the Indonesian people who are hungry because of corruption.

The KPK's 100 percent conviction rate and successes in exposing and prosecuting corrupt politicians, business people and bureaucrats have made the agency an enemy of many among the Indonesian elite, including the nation's police force and the attorney general's office. In September, two of the KPK's deputy commissioners Chandra Hamzah and Bibit Samad Rianto were suspended after police accused them of accepting bribes to drop cases against suspects and abusing their powers with travel bans. But the police's case against them proved erroneous after it emerged that the KPK had secretly taped telephone
conversations about a scheme to implicate the deputy commissioners in a bribery case.

The tapes, detailing a plot to frame the leaders, was nationally televised earlier this week

On the tapes, Anggodo Wijoyo, the brother of a wanted corruption suspect who fled Indonesia to Singapore last year, named General Susno Duadji, the head of national police investigations, and Deputy Attorney General Abdul Hakim Ritonga as being accomplices in the conspiracy. In one conversation Anggodo suggested he would have Chandra murdered once he was in custody.

On Wednesday, amid growing public pressure, Susno and Ritonga were forced to submit their resignations.

Political commentator Wimar Witolear says the tapes are damning evidence of high level corruption.

"I think anyone who saw the tapes, four-and-a-half hours of that, would find it quite easy to make an initial judgement at least. That's why I call it the Watergate of Indonesian politics," said Witolear.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose name was also mentioned in the tapes, has launched an independent investigation into the tapes. In a televised address he said fighting the judicial mafia would be a priority for the first 100 days of his new government.

He said it won't be as easy as we imagine but if we are serious we will get results.

President Yudhoyono urged Indonesians who are victims of what he called the "judicial mafia" to lodge reports with the government.

But members of his so-called fact-finding team have already threatened to quit over what they call stonewalling tactics by the police and prosecutors.

And as the momentum for action gathers pace, corruption watchdogs and the public are calling for much more than the scalps of Susno and Ritonga.

Danang Widoyoko is the deputy coordinator of Indonesia's corruption watch.

"Not only Susno and Ritonga, but all of the names that are mentioned in the wiretapping recording should resign," said Widoyoko. "And secondly we also demand that the chief of police and attorney general should also resign, those are the leaders that are supposedly responsible for all the corruption in the police and the judiciary."

Though much less dramatic, the protests echo the uprising of a decade ago when fierce and violent public agitation brought down the Suharto regime after three decades in power. Using text messaging, blogs and social networking sites, hundreds of protests have been staged across Indonesia. A Facebook site dedicated to defending the KPK commissioners has attracted more than 800,000 members this week.

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