Indonesia president under pressure as top judge arrested for graft

JAKARTA Thu Oct 3, 2013 7:01am EDT

Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono looks at his wife Ani Yudhoyono as they wait for the arrival of Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta September 30, 2013. REUTERS/Beawiharta

Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono looks at his wife Ani Yudhoyono as they wait for the arrival of Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta September 30, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Beawiharta

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JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia's anti-corruption agency has arrested the chief justice and head of the Constitutional Court, the latest in a string of scandals coming to light in President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's attempts to crack down on graft.

But critics accuse him of doing little to back the underfunded agency and crack down on government white-collar crime in one of the world's most corrupt countries.

Akil Mochtar, elected chief justice for a five-year term in August, was arrested by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) after investigators confiscated 3 billion rupiah ($260,200) from his home, agency spokesman Johan Budi said.

Budi told Reuters the money was suspected of being linked to a regional election. A member of parliament, four businessmen and a local leader were also arrested, Budi said in a separate statement to journalists.

"I feel the anger and shock of the Indonesian people in ... learning about the arrest," Yudhoyono said in a statement on Thursday.

"Imagine if there is any wrongdoing in the way decisions are made by the Constitutional Court. The impact on the Indonesian state would be great."

Mochtar has not commented publicly on his arrest.

The court has the final say on issues such as elections and state institutions. In a landmark decision last year, it declared the regulator of the oil and gas industry unconstitutional, forcing the government to replace it with a new agency.

A cabinet minister, and leading member of Yudhoyono's ruling Democratic Party, was forced to step down late last year after being accused of graft in a multi-million dollar case surrounding the construction of a sports complex.

That case has ensnared several other senior members of Yudhoyono's party, which has seen its popularity tumble in opinion polls.

Yudhoyono, who was first elected to office in 2004 partly on an anti-corruption platform, is serving his second and final term.

"Yudhoyono has an anti-corruption policy but he has only provided very weak political support for it," said Dadang Trisasongko, head of Transparency International in Indonesia.

"That's why bureaucratic reform is stagnant and corruption remains a big problem for Indonesia and for Yudhoyono."

($1 = 11,530 rupiah)

(Reporting by Janeman Latul, Fathiya Dahrul and Rieka Rahadiana; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor and Randy Fabi. Editing by Jonathan Thatcher)

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