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Q&A: Indonesia corruption scandal

Protest in support of the anti-corruption commission in Jakarta, Indonesia - 23 November 2009
Many Indonesians are angry at the case against the anti-corruption agency

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been under mounting public pressure to act strongly in a corruption scandal involving the anti-corruption agency, the police and the attorney general's office.

What does the scandal involve?

Police arrested two officials from the Corruption Eradication Commission (or KPK) after they were accused of extortion and abuse of power.

The two men - Bibit Samad Rianto and Chandra Hamzah - have been released, but the police and the attorney general's office have so far refused to drop the case against them.

In their defence, the men submitted wiretap recordings which alleged they were the victims of a conspiracy to undermine the KPK.

On the tapes, a businessman and senior members of the police and attorney general's office allegedly discuss plans to frame KPK officials and have one of them killed in prison.

The tapes were played on national television, prompting near-daily rallies in Jakarta in support of the two KPK officials, which correspondents say is one of the country's few institutions Indonesians trust to be untainted by corruption.

The powerful body has earned itself a reputation for putting corrupt officials behind bars.

Deputy attorney general Abdul Hakim Ritonga and the national police force's chief detective, Susno Duadji, resigned after their names came up in the wiretaps, but Mr Duadji has since been reinstated.

What action has Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono taken?

The president appointed an independent legal team to investigate the scandal, and on 17 November they recommended that the case against the two KPK men be dropped, for those involved in constructing the case to be sanctioned, and for sweeping legal reforms to be enacted.

Mr Yudhoyono has also promised "controversial" action would be taken, indicating to Indonesian journalists that the case would be settled out of court.

Many Indonesians have been disappointed by the president's slow response to the scandal, and have called for the chief of national police, the attorney general and other top law enforcement officials to be sacked.

What is at stake for the president?

Mr Yudhoyono was re-elected in July, having promised to crack down on the country's widespread corruption.

But his seeming caution in taking decisive action has led some analysts to suggest he is reluctant to take on what Indonesians call the "legal mafia" of corrupt police, prosecutors, judges and other officials.

The scandal is rapidly turning into the first serious test of Mr Yudhoyono's leadership in his second term.



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