Indonesian President Will Not Interfere in Corruption Fighters’ Detention

Hours after the Thursday arrests of two Corruption Eradication Commission deputy chairmen, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono stressed he would not interfere and said nothing was unusual about the detentions. The controversy arose, he said, because Chandra M Hamzah and Bibit Samad Rianto, were from the KPK. At a news conference on Friday afternoon, Yudhoyono said that as president he could not and would not intervene in legal proceedings or ask the police not to carry out their duties. “I have to follow the law. I have never asked for somebody to be arrested or released — not my aides, a member of the Democratic Party, not even my relatives,” he said. The president said he believed the controversy over the arrest of Chandra and Bibit was mainly because many believed it was “impossible” for KPK leaders to commit any wrongdoing, let alone engage in corruption. Yudhoyono has faced a rising tide of public pressure to alleviate the increasingly vicious tension between the National Police, the KPK and, lately, the Attorney General’s Office. Critics have lashed out at the police, saying the detentions were unwarranted. The police countered by saying they feared the suspects could disrupt the investigation by holding news conferences to sway opinion. The president said the police were within their rights to carry out the arrests, but added that the move should be based on clear reasoning. He said he had asked National Police Chief Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri to explain the move publicly, including answering claims that the police were trying to frame the two deputies. He deflected allegations that he was responsible for allowing the standoff between the KPK and the police to turn so ugly. He said that he had on past occasions sought to mend frayed ties between the KPK and other government institutions. The president said he had no intention of disbanding the KPK. “If there is an attempt from any party to dismiss the KPK, I will be at the fore in fighting it.” Yudhoyono also said that supposed transcripts of wire-tapped phone conversations now in the KPK’s possession, including one in which his name was mentioned, should be revealed in full, along with the identities of those responsible for recording the conversations. “For the sake of truth and justice, expose them so that the public will know,” he said, adding that he had asked the police to investigate the case. But activists greeted Yudhoyono’s statements with suspicion. “The president must order the establishment of an independent team to probe the wiretapped conversations,” said Todung Mulya Lubis, head of Transparency International Indonesia. “The police and the AGO cannot investigate it because they have vested interests in this case.” Hendardi, head of an activist group, Setara Institute, said Yudhoyono should not hide behind “flowery words about not interfering in legal cases,” as the AGO and the police were under his authority. “It’s the president’s fault if people are angry and lose their trust in the government. I find it odd because Yudhoyono, whom we all know is very careful about his image, is letting his law enforcement agencies attack one another.”

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