Jakarta – A senior investigator at the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) was arrested at midnight over a case dating back to over a decade ago, raising concerns about a possible witch hunt targeting top officials at the anti-graft agency.
Novel Baswedan was picked up from his house in North Jakarta and taken for questioning as a suspect in a criminal case in Bengkulu in 2004 after ignoring two police summonses, police said.
National police criminal investigations chief Budi Waseso said Novel shot suspected thieves and killed one of them while he was the head of criminal investigations at the Bengkulu city police that year.
The arrest warrant seen by The Parrot said Novel was “strongly suspected of” an aggravated assault causing serious injuries.
Police tried to arrest Novel in 2012 as he was leading a corruption investigation into a bribery case involving the former head of the police traffic department, Joko Susilo, but relented after an outpouring of public support for him.
President Joko Widodo, under public pressure to take action, urged the police not to detain Novel.
“Don’t create a new controversy that will only disturb the synergy between the police, KPK and the Attorney General’s office,” Jokowi said.
But the president’s order appeared to have fallen on deaf ears.
Novel was flown in the evening to Bengkulu supposedly to re-enact his alleged crime, national police chief Badrodin Haiti said.
Prominent human rights activist Usman Hamid said Novel was determined to fight.
“I just met Novel. He feels this is not a proper legal process,” he said on Twitter.
A petition has been launched by his wife, Rina Emilda, demanding his release.
“He is accused of involvement in a 2004 case that many quarters believed has been trumped up,” Rina said in the petition on charge.org.
Novel is not the only KPK official who has been named a criminal suspect by police.
The suspended chairman of the KPK, Abraham Samad, and one of his deputies, Bambang Widjojanto, have been named suspects in separate, old cases that supporters said were trumped up as part of attempts to weaken the agency.
Abraham and Bambang ran into legal trouble after KPK named President Joko Widodo’s nominee for the chief of national police, Budi Gunawan, a suspect in a bribery case dating back to 2006 when he was mid-ranking officer.
Bowing to a public outcry, Joko withdrew Budi’s nomination and instead appointed General Commissioner Badrodin Haiti as the new national police chief. Badrodin last month appointed Budi as his deputy.
Police accused Abraham of falsifying documents in 2007 to help a friend apply for a passport in South Sulawesi province.
They also briefly detained Bambang over an old perjury case but released him the next day amid public protests that the case was fabricated. He remains a suspect.
Acting KPK commissioner Johan Budi said the agency’s leadership had formally requested police not to detain Novel, saying that he will respect the legal process.
“Good relations between the KPK and the police should be maintained for greater interests. If we are ignored, there’s no point in being KPK leaders,” he said.
Johan said KPK had previously notified the police that Novel had not yet been able to answer the summonses because he had unfinished work.
Indonesia ranked 107th out of 175 countries in the 2014 corruption perception index released by Transparency International, with number one the least corrupt.
*The story has been updated with remarks from President Joko Widodo and national police chief Badrodin Haiti