Indonesia parliament speaker taken into custody by anti-graft agency

This file photo taken on November 19, 2015 shows Indonesian parliament speaker Setya Novanto during an official function at the parliament in Jakarta. (AFP)
Updated 20 November 2017
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Indonesia parliament speaker taken into custody by anti-graft agency

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s parliament speaker Setya Novanto has been taken into custody by the country’s anti-corruption agency after being arrested over his alleged role in causing state losses of $170 million linked to a national electronic identity card scheme.
Novanto, wearing an orange vest worn by detainees of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), was transferred from a hospital on Sunday night into a KPK detention facility at its headquarters in Jakarta.
He is one of the most senior politicians in Indonesia to be detained by the independent KPK.
The parliament speaker was arrested on Friday night but KPK said it delayed enforcing his detention while he received treatment for injuries sustained in a car crash the day before.
Laode Muhammad Syarif, deputy head of the KPK, said in a video posted on the agency’s official Periscope page that a doctor’s statement showed Novanto no longer needed to be treated in hospital “therefore according to standards and procedure the delay of the arrest is no longer needed.”
In comments made to reporters on Sunday night, Novanto said he was still suffering from vertigo after the crash that he said had caused injuries to his leg, arm and head.
“I did not expect this (to happen) tonight. I thought I would be given time for recovery, but I obey the law,” Novanto was quoted by Kumparan.com as saying.
Officers from KPK tried to arrest Novanto, the chairman of Golkar, Indonesia’s second-largest party and partner in the ruling coalition, at his house in Jakarta late on Wednesday.
But the investigators, watched by television cameras, failed to find him, sparking speculation that he had gone into hiding.
Later, Novanto was involved in a car accident and his lawyer, Fredrich Yunadi, said a journalist was driving the vehicle and interviewing his client at the time of the accident.
Novanto has denied wrongdoing but has repeatedly missed summonses from the KPK for questioning in recent months, saying he was ill and needed to undergo heart surgery.
The KPK is investigating state losses amounting to about $170 million linked to a national electronic identity card scheme after allegations that sums ranging from $5,000 to $5.5 million — generated by marking up procurement costs — were divided up among politicians in parliament.
Novanto was named a suspect on Nov. 10 again after he had used a controversial legal maneuver, a pre-trial motion, to get earlier charges dropped last month.
Novanto’s lawyer has said a request for another pre-trial motion had been filed on behalf of his client.
The house speaker gained a measure of international fame in September 2015 when then US presidential candidate Donald Trump hailed the Indonesian politician as a “great man” during a news conference.
“Do they like me in Indonesia?” Trump asked after introducing Novanto to reporters at Trump Tower.
“Yes, highly,” Novanto replied.
Indonesians have been gripped by the drama around the case with newspapers splashing the story across their front page and circulating memes mocking Novanto.
Despite repeated efforts by politicians and police to undermine it, the KPK has remained one of Southeast Asia’s most effective and independent agencies. It investigated 91 people last year, a record in its 15-year history, data provided by the agency showed.


Death toll from anti-Vedanta protests in south India rises to 13

Updated 40 min 42 sec ago
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Death toll from anti-Vedanta protests in south India rises to 13

TUTICORIN, India: A protester shot during demonstrations against a copper plant in southern India died of his injuries Thursday, officials said, the 13th victim killed by police fire.
A curfew remained in pockets of Tuticorin city in Tamil Nadu state where police used live ammunition to disperse protesters this week, provoking international outrage and demands for an immediate investigation.
Calls for the copper smelting plant owned by British mining giant Vedanta Resources to be closed had been building in recent months, with residents complaining it was polluting their city.
The resistance came to a head Tuesday when police stopped a crowd of thousands from protesting outside the factory.
Cars and buildings were set ablaze and rocks hurled at police, who responded with live fire. Eleven demonstrators were shot dead and many people injured in the melee, including 20 police.
Another protester died Wednesday when he was struck by rubber bullets in a second day of protests.
The latest victim died in hospital Thursday, two days after being injured, doctors said.
“He was brought in a critical condition with bullet injuries and died today,” a doctor at the local hospital said.
The chief minister of Tamil Nadu has ordered an inquiry but defended the actions of police, which the state’s opposition leader called “mass murder.”
“The police have a duty during protests to maintain law and order, but lethal force can only be used if there is an imminent threat to life,” Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said.
“Tamil Nadu authorities need to carry out a prompt and credible investigation to determine if police used excessive force.”
Internet services have been blocked across the city for five days. Police justified the blackout to stop the spread of information that could incite further violence as they search for those behind Tuesday’s arson attacks.
Environmentalists and locals say the factory contaminates water and air, claims its owners deny.
The company has sought to renew the license of the temporarily non-operational plant and hopes to double its production capacity.
But a state court Wednesday ordered that it cease any further construction at the new site.
The ruling came just hours after Tamil Nadu’s pollution board ordered the existing plant be shut and its power supply cut until a verdict is made on its licensing application.