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JAKARTA, Indonesia – Indonesians took to social media to hail a landmark ruling in which the former top judge of the country’s Constitutional Court was jailed for life for accepting more than $5 million in bribes to influence rulings, in the country’s latest high-profile corruption case.
A judge in Jakarta handed down the unusually tough sentence on Monday, June 30, and said that by accepting kickbacks to sway decisions on local election disputes, Akil Mochtar had severely damaged the Constitutional Court’s standing.
“The defendant was the chairman of a high-level state institution that was the last bastion for people seeking justice,” presiding judge Suwidya told a special anti-corruption court.
“His actions have resulted in the collapse of the authority of the constitutional court.”
Mochtar, 53, described the sentence as “unfair” and said he would appeal.
He was caught red-handed in October in a sting by anti-corruption investigators as he was about to accept around IDR3 billion ($250,000) in bribes from a businessman and a lawmaker, according to prosecutors.
Indonesians pointed to the ruling as being both a deterrent and indicative of a push to fight corruption.
Emerson Yuntho, the legal monitoring coordinator of the Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), told the Jakarta Globe on Tuesday, “This verdict will not only give a deterrent effect but also send a message to other law enforcers not to commit corruption or take bribes.”
Others took to Twitter to express their sentiment.
High ranking official from Constitutional Court is charged with corruption. Indonesia's transparency is here to stay/ http://t.co/SQM0n5zSpj— Eko Junor (@EkoJunor) July 1, 2014
Akil Mochtar is sentenced to life in prison. Very well-deserved! http://t.co/KJyZzVzHPq— Ignasius Ryan Hasim (@ignasiusryan) June 30, 2014
congratulations on sentences of life imprisonment for Akil Mochtar. Good job judge corruption— Randa R (@RandaRunn) July 1, 2014
Mochtar is the latest in a series of top public servants to become embroiled in a corruption case, with the former top energy regulator and several government ministers among those accused of graft.
However his case was the most shocking in recent times, as the Constitutional Court had been considered one of the country’s cleanest institutions.
After a lengthy final hearing Monday that ran into the night, judge Suwidya announced that Mochtar had been “proven legally and convincingly guilty” of corruption and money-laundering and handed him a life sentence.
He had accepted around $5.4 million in bribes in cases linked to regional election disputes, according to prosecutors.
One of the key roles of the Constitutional Court, created in 2001, is to decide on disputes in local and national elections.
But 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 has issued a new law.
The court also hears cases about the constitution and rules on any attempt to impeach the president.
Indonesia is consistently ranked one of the world’s most corrupt countries.
NGO Transparency International ranked Indonesia 114th out of 177 countries and territories in its annual corruption perceptions index last year. A number one ranking means the least corrupt. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com