Search Begins For Defiant Indonesian Mayor
Rizky Amelia & Novianti Setuningsih
Corruption Eradication Commission investigators were deployed on Tuesday to detain suspended Bekasi Mayor Mochtar Muhammad after he failed to meet a deadline to surrender.
“They have moved to the field. After 5 p.m., when M.M. failed to honor the summons, the team of prosecutors immediately moved to look for M.M.,” said Johan Budi, spokesman for the antigraft body known as KPK.
Johan said he did not have information on whether Mochtar had been located. The KPK had given him until 5 p.m. to surrender himself; it was his second ignored summons after an initial mandate last Thursday.
The Supreme Court, in an appeal ruling, sentenced Mochtar to six years in prison and fined him Rp 300 million ($33,000) for corruption and misuse of the Bekasi municipal budget.
Though Mochtar was nowhere to be seen on Tuesday, his lawyers, Sirra Prayuna and Sugeng Teguh Santoso, came to the KPK.
Johan had said earlier that if Mochtar failed to appear by the deadline, he would be put on the National Police wanted list.
Prior to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Sirra maintained said that his client would not honor the summons and preferred to await the prosecutors’ arrival at his home.
“The prosecutors said they would come. Please do; I will wait,” Sirra said.
But as the deadline passed, Sirra declined to say where his client might be. “I do not want to tell. I do not want to ascertain where he is,” he said.
The lawyers have argued that Mochtar’s refusal to honor the summons was because they had not yet received a copy of the Supreme Court verdict.
Legal expert Hasril Hertanto, commenting on the defiance exhibited by Mochtar, said that the suspended mayor had already exhausted all his avenues of appeal and therefore could not escape detention.
“After a Supreme Court appeal, the verdict comes into effect. Even if he wanted to file a case review, that should not delay the execution of the verdict,” Hasril said.
He said if the convict refused to surrender, prosecutors should forcefully arrest him.
“There should be no compromise,” he added.
Although there is no legal sanction for Mochtar’s failure to surrender, his defiance may be taken into consideration when judges decide whether or not to accept a case review and when the president considers a request for clemency.
“This is not absolute, but it can have an impact,” Hasril said.
Meanwhile, Indonesia Corruption Watch criticized the KPK as being slow to act in arraigning Mochtar.
“We deplore the fact that the KPK instead waited for the initiative of the convict rather than immediately implementing the Supreme Court verdict once it was received,” ICW researcher Donal Fariz said.
He said there was no need to summon Mochtar a second time, as he had not showed good faith by ignoring the first order.
The Supreme Court’s appeal ruling convicted Mochtar of having raided state coffers while serving as mayor of Bekasi, using public funds to pay for cars, expensive shopping sprees and bribing officials into awarding his city a prestigious environmental award. His actions cost the state Rp 5.5 billion.
The high court’s verdict overturned a previous acquittal by the Bandung Anti-Corruption Court on March 7.