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Indonesia legal system under fire over e-mail case
Tue Jun 23, 2009 12:51am EDT
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By Ed Davies
JAKARTA (Reuters) - An Indonesian mother who was fined, jailed and put on trial after sending an e-mail to friends complaining about her treatment in a private hospital, has become a rallying point for reform of the country's legal system.
Indonesia's unpredictable legal system is one of the main deterrents to much needed investment.
While President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is seeking re-election next month, has pushed through some reforms and made inroads tackling graft in Southeast Asia's biggest economy, reform of the legal system has lagged.
The defamation case against Prita Mulyasari has sparked a public uproar over a perception that she has been miserably treated by a legal system that often favors the rich and well-connected in the world's fourth-most populous country.
"It's a very important case because it has to do with freedom of speech, freedom of expression," said Todung Mulya Lubis, a prominent Indonesian lawyer and rights campaigner.
Concerns over the case have also become entwined in campaigning for a presidential election on July 8.
"The application of the law has to be fair and transparent," Yudhoyono, who is currently favorite to win a new term, told a televised presidential debate last week.
A survey by Indonesia's anti-corruption agency in February found the judiciary was the most graft-prone public institution in the country, illustrated by cases where officials have been caught red-handed with suitcases stuffed with cash.
The legal system is also notoriously complex. In addition to codes dating from the Dutch colonial era, Indonesia has passed a blizzard of new local laws to allow greater decentralization.
Foreign companies have frequently become ensnared in controversial legal battles in Indonesia's courts.
A local unit of Canada's Manulife Financial Corp was declared bankrupt by an Indonesian court in 2002, despite being solvent. The Supreme Court later overturned that ruling.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court reversed a 1 trillion rupiah ($97.13 million) libel ruling against Time magazine over an article alleging that Suharto and his family had amassed a $15 billion fortune.
The lengthy legal battle against the publication, owned by Time Warner Inc, was seen as a key test of the country's legal system and freedom of speech.
The Mulyasari case has struck a particular chord, with thousands of Indonesians signing pledges of support for her on sites such as Facebook. Continued...
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Indonesia legal system under fire over e-mail case
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