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Speaker of Indonesian Parliament Found Guilty of Corruption - 2002-09-04


An Indonesian court has found the speaker of Parliament guilty of corruption, and sentenced him in prison. Lawyers for Akbar Tandjung say they will appeal. After an eight-hour session Wednesday, presiding judge Amiruddin Zakaria declared Akbar Tandjung guilty. The judge said the court is sentencing Akbar Tandjung to three years in jail. Two other defendants received sentences of one year and six months in jail, and each must pay a fine of $1,100. Lawyers for Tandjung say they will appeal the verdict. The speaker of Parliament, Tandjung is one of the highest profile politicians to go on trial in Indonesia. He faced up to 20 years in jail on charges that he channeled $4 million of government funds intended for humanitarian aid to the political party he heads - Golkar. Prosecutors say the money was used for Golkar's 1999 election campaign. Tandjung denies he did anything wrong. He says he did not even know the money was missing until four months after the election was over. Golkar was the party of former President Suharto and dominated Indonesian politics throughout his 32 years in office. Despite Mr. Suharto's ouster four years ago, it remains the second largest party in parliament, but it has had trouble forging a new identity. Tandjung was considered a likely presidential candidate for 2004. Now some analysts question whether Golkar will be able to survive Tandjung's problems. Mohammed Hikam was a minister in the government of former President Abdurrahman Wahid. "For Golkar and Akbar - it's damned if you do, damned if you don't," he said. "If you are not guilty, then Golkar will be hit by public distrust, very heavily. But if Akbar is found guilty, it is the end of his political career, it seems to me." Mr. Hikam says he believes Golkar will face an internal power struggle. But the party remains well respected in the provinces. "If Golkar can manage to create some kind of reform, I think there is a chance for Golkar to survive," said Mohammed Hikam. The trial of Tandjung also is considered a test for President Megawati Sukarnoputri - who has promised to crack down on Indonesia's endemic corruption.

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