JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia’s president on Monday ordered an investigation into an alleged plot against the country’s anti-corruption agency, considered a key weapon in the fight against graft and efforts to attract investment.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was re-elected in July to a second, five-year term partly on the back of the agency’s success in fighting endemic graft and his promises to continue to clean up one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
The success of the Corruption Eradication Commission, or KPK, has helped revive investor interest in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.
But the agency, which has helped put scores of officials in prison, has made many enemies among the elite in business and politics and has come under threat after police detained two senior officials widely thought to have been framed.
Yudhoyono will issue a presidential decree to set up the independent team that will investigate the detention of the two KPK officials, Security and Political Affairs Minister Djoko Suyanto said.
Chandra Hamzah and Bibit Samad Riyanto, two of four deputy chiefs at the KPK, were detained last week and police said they were suspected of graft and abuse of power. Both deny the allegations.
“This afternoon the formation of an independent team to verify facts and the legal process related to Chandra and Bibit has been agreed,” said Suyanto.
Local media reported last week the two men, recently removed from their jobs, may have been framed.
The reports were based on what were said to be transcripts of recorded conversations between several individuals, including a businessman, a former official from the attorney general’s office and a police investigator, in which they appeared to plan the framing of the two KPK officials.
The case has triggered a public outcry, with nearly 400,000 people signed up to a Facebook campaign in support of the two men. About 500 protesters wearing black armbands and calling for the release of the two officials marched in central Jakarta on Monday, chanting: “Clean up the police force immediately.”
More rallies took place in other parts of Java island, as well as in Sumatra and Sulawesi, in support of the KPK, which has gained something of a cult status in Indonesia.
A member of the Facebook campaign wrote on the group’s wall: “Show no mercy to the corrupt. Never, ever give up, no matter what the obstacles. Victory to the KPK!”
National police chief Bambang Hendarso Danuri has denied the case against the two men was flawed, but said on Monday he would consider calls for them to be released from detention.
Fifteen top editors from various media in Indonesia also offered to provide guarantees so the men could be released.
The independent team, which will consist of the president’s legal advisers, academics, and anti-graft activists including the respected lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis, is expected to finish its work in two weeks, Suyanto said.
Kevin O‘Rourke, Jakarta-based a political risk analyst, said the probe could mark “a turning point with potential to result in the release and acquittal of the KPK pair and, possibly, a reshuffling of controversial figures in the police and AGO”.
A survey by Transparency International conducted last year found the police and the judiciary to be among the country’s most corrupt institutions.
Additional reporting by Olivia Rondonuwu, Telly Nathalia and Sunanda Creagh; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Jerry Norton and Alex Richardson