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Indonesia says corruption chief a murder suspect
Fri May 1, 2009 9:51am EDT
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By Telly Nathalia and Olivia Rondonuwu
JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia's top graft-buster was named a suspect and a mastermind in a murder case on Friday, dealing a blow to the agency that's played a key part in President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's fight against corruption.
Antasari Azhar, the 56-year-old head of the Corruption Eradication Commission or KPK, is one of several suspects in the murder of Nasrudin Zulkarnaen -- a businessman who, according to local media reports, had been a witness in a corruption case investigated by the agency.
"In the case of the premeditated murder of Nasrudin Zulkarnaen in Tangerang area on March 14, 2009, one of the suspects and masterminds is Antasari Azhar," Jasman Pandjaitan, a spokesman for the attorney-general's office, told a news conference.
Zulkarnaen, a director of state-owned pharmaceutical firm Putra Rajawali Banjaran, was shot by two gunman after he had finished playing golf in Tangerang, a town west of Jakarta, according to local media reports.
Azhar's lawyer said Azhar had not received any formal letter to say he was a suspect.
"For him this is very shocking. He said he is not at all involved," Ari Yusuf Amir, the lawyer, told Reuters.
"Today, we received a letter from the police asking him to come on Monday as a witness, not as a suspect. We are confused by the announcement by the attorney general's office because it is the police who have the authority to announce someone's status."
The KPK has been at the forefront of President Yudhoyono's campaign to crack down on corruption, and several high profile politicians, central bankers, and officials -- including some from the attorney-general's office -- have been charged and imprisoned as a result of its investigations.
A spokesman for the president told Reuters the KPK's crackdown on corruption would continue.
"Corruption eradication goes on," said Andi Mallarangeng, spokesman for Yudhoyono, or SBY as he is often known.
"Since the beginning of SBY's government, the law is enforced without exception. To anyone. We must applaud the police who have been able to unravel this case, and whoever the perpetrator is must be punished."
President Yudhoyono, a reform-minded ex-general who is seeking re-election in presidential elections in July, has pushed for a crackdown on graft using the KPK, which started operations in 2003, and an independent corruption court.
Indonesia regularly ranks among the most corrupt countries in the world, a factor that deters foreign investment and hampers its economic growth.
"We hope the fact that he is a suspect will not weaken the KPK's performance in fighting graft," said Emerson Yuntho, deputy coordinator of Indonesian Corruption Watch. Continued...
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