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Life sentence for corrupt judge

June 30, 2014

The former head of Indonesia's Constitutional Court has received a life sentence for graft. That’s the heaviest penalty ever for the offense in what is considered one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

Indonesia Judge Akil Mochtar in Jakarta
Image: Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images

In Indonesia's latest high-profile corruption case, the country jailed the former top judge of the Constitutional Court for life after a lengthy final hearing that went late into Monday night.

Akil Mochtar was found guilty of accepting over $5 million in bribes to influence rulings. Late last year, Indonesia's powerful Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) had arrested the judge for accepting bribes and laundering money in a local election dispute.

"Akil Mochtar got a life sentence today, and this is the heaviest sentence that we have ever seen in Indonesia," KPK spokesman Johan Budi said on Monday.

Created in 2001, the Constitutional Court decides on disputes in local and national elections. Before Mochtar's case, the Constitutional Court had gained a reputation for independence and transparency.

Mochtar, 53, described the sentence as "unfair" and said he would appeal.

Following the Mochtar scandal, the court ruled that it should no longer have responsibility for deciding local poll disputes, although it will continue to decide on such cases until the government issues a new law.

"The defendant was the chairman of a high-level state institution that was the last bastion for people seeking justice," presiding Judge Suwidya said on Monday. "His actions have resulted in the collapse of the authority of the Constitutional Court."

KPK's uphill battle

The KPK has been on a roll. In May, the religious affairs minister became the second Cabinet official to step down after the KPK accused him of embezzling state funds allocated for the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Now in his second and final term, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono won election to the post in 2004 partly on an anti-corruption platform. Indonesia will hold its third direct presidential election - a tight two-horse race between Jakarta Governor Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and ex-General Prabowo Subianto - on July 9.

With corruption proving a major issue in the election - the economy is another - both candidates have pledged to strengthen the KPK.

In a 2013 survey by the corruption watchdog Transparency International, Indonesia ranked 114th out of 177 countries, with parliament, police, and the judiciary considered its least-trustworthy public institutions.

mkg/tj (Reuters, AFP)