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Indonesian President 'Furious' Over Bribery Scandal

by Andy Lala, Fatiyah Wardah December 08, 2015

Indonesian President Joko Widodo says he is furious and disappointed that his name has been dragged into a bribery scandal involving parliament speaker Setya Novanto.

The president told reporters that the process of a parliamentary honorary court, the MKD, must be respected, but he is angry the speaker invoked his name to solicit bribes.

Novanto, who is accused of soliciting bribes from mining giant Freeport, told the court Monday that he rejects the evidence against him because it was illegally obtained.

The evidence he was referring to is an audio recording of him reportedly telling a Freeport executive that the president wanted shares in the company in exchange for regulatory help.

'I don't mind if you say I'm a 'crazy president' or a 'stubborn president.' That doesn't bother me at all," Widodo said. "But when it is concerned with my reputation or the dignity of my office, saying that I asked for 11 percent [of Freeport] shares, I can't tolerate it. No, never! These are issues of appropriateness, ethics, morality and the dignity of the nation."

MKD chairman Surahman Hidayat said after the closed hearing that once the original recording is submitted, the court plans to ask the national police to conduct a forensic test on the authenticity of the recording.

He said the legality of the recording is still in question and, therefore, the technical authenticity must be confirmed through a forensic audit. He told reporters a final decision would be reached before December 18.

Public hearings demanded

Meanwhile, thousands of people have signed an online petition for parliament to open the MKD hearings to the public.

But Junimart Girsang, vice chairman of MKD, said the closed hearing was requested by the speaker, who said some of the information should not be public.

Girsang added that during the hearing, the speaker didn't respond to questions about the recordings.

'It was an opportunity for him to explain publicly [his side], but he didn't take it," Girsand said.

In the meantime, the case is also being handled by the Department of Justice.

Attorney General H.M. Prasetyo said several individuals involved in the case have been questioned.

'This case is still in the investigation level to find proof or evidence," he said. "When they are found, we'll go after the suspects."

Prasetyo said the issue is not the legality of recording the conversation, but of the alleged bribery agreement.

General Badrodi Haiti, the chief of police, has also dismissed arguments on the legality of the recordings, telling reporters that such recordings could be done secretly in anticipation of problems in the future.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Indonesian service.

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