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Indonesia anti-graft chief arrested by police as suspect in murder

Posted by Hari Saryono on 13 May 2009


JAKARTA — Indonesia’s top graft-buster, Antasari Azhar, was arrested after being named as a suspect in the murder of a businessman after he was questioned for several hours on Monday at Jakarta’s police headquarters.

“Today he was interviewed as a witness and after the end of that interrogation, based on strong evidence, he will be interrogated (in this investigation) as a suspect,” Wahyono, Jakarta’s police chief, told a news conference.

The scandal has dealt a blow to the reputation of the Corruption Eradication Agency, or KPK, which has been at the forefront of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s efforts to crack down on graft and attract foreign investment.

“The public believed in the KPK as an institution, in their integrity. But now they see that one of their leaders is involved in this kind of case, that could change,” said Adnan Topan Husodo, a member of Indonesia Corruption Watch.

“To rebuild public trust, the KPK needs to continue with the big cases that are still ongoing. The KPK has no choice but to improve their performance.”

But Husodo said Azhar’s case probably would not affect Yudhoyono, who is seeking re-election in July.

The KPK, which has investigated dozens of officials including politicians and central bankers for corruption, has been quick to stress it will continue its work without Azhar.

“KPK is an organisation that does not rely on one person,” said Haryono Umar, a KPK deputy for corruption prevention.

Azhar’s alleged involvement in the murder of Nasrudin Zulkarnaen, a director of state-owned pharmaceutical firm Putra Rajawali Banjaran, has dominated the news in Indonesia because of its combination of alleged murder, corruption, and sex.

Local media have reported that the two men were both involved with a 22-year-old female golf caddy. The police said on Monday other suspects in the case include a senior police official.

Azhar’s lawyers said they hope his arrest would be deferred.

Zulkarnaen, who had been a witness in a corruption case investigated by the agency, was killed by two gunmen in March.

At a packed media conference, Jakarta’s police chief showed reporters the pistol which was used to kill Nasrudin, and other evidence including two motorcycles, one used by the gunmen and another one bought by the killers once they had been paid.

But police declined to comment on details of the case.

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