BREAKING NEWS: CJ Mochtar arrested

Back in April, I posted news about Akil Mochtar’s election to the chief justiceship of the Constitutional Court (Mahkamah Konstitusi). I had mentioned that a few years ago Justice Akil was accused of bribery in a district elections case from North Sumatra. I had speculated that while Chief Justice Akil was cleared of all charges, the allegations might taint his term.

Apparently, corruption has come back to Chief Justice Akil. According to The Jakarta Post, the chief justice was arrested by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) over bribery charges earlier today in connection to a dispute regarding the Gunung Mas Regency elections. The KPK says it seized Rp. 3 million from Akil Mochtar’s house and also arrested several other lawmakers.

Obviously, this incident could have huge implications for the MK. Up until now, the MK has had a relatively clean reputation. I suspect this news will shatter that image and disappoint many Indonesian anticorruption activists. Senior Advisor on Governance in Justice Partnership (Partnership), Laode M Sharif – my former colleague at the Asia Foundation in Jakarta – expressed his surprise and disappointment. I expect more to come.

More important than the immediate reaction will be how the rest of the MK handles the scandal. Will the justices be able to decide on a public relations strategy? Will the abandon Mochtar or stick with him? Will the MK wait until the KPK formally charges Mochtar? Until the end of the trial?

This is the beginning of a new era for the MK. I’m heading to Indonesia soon and will hopefully learn more while I’m there.

UPDATE (03 October 2013):

The Jakarta Globe reports more reactions to the news of Akil Mochtar’s arrest. The condemnation has been widespread. Former MK Chief Justice Jimly has allegedly suggested the death penalty would have a strong deterrent effect against corruption. Former Chief Justice Mahfud MD has said publicly that Akil Mochtar should cooperate with the investigation. Also reports coming out tomorrow explain the charges levied against Akil Mochtar.

According to Viva News, the MK has already recommended suspending Akil Mochtar and assigned his cases to other justices. Significantly, it appears that, while they have not embraced him, the other justices have not tried to defend him. According to Deputy Chief Justice Hamdan Zoelva, the MK will also launch an internal investigation.

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