When former house speaker Setya Novanto was sentenced to 15 years in jail in April for his role in the massive electronic ID card (e-KTP) graft scandal, activists heralded it as a major victory in the war against Indonesia’s endemic corruption and culture of impunity. Yesterday, the lawyer who allegedly helped Setya elude investigators was sentenced to 7 years for obstructing justice, hopefully serving as further warning to unscrupulous attorneys and the politicians who use them.
Fredrich Yunadi, who served as Setya’s attorney until shortly after the former Golkar chairman was arrested by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), was sentenced to 7 years in prison and a fine of IDR500 million (US$35,000) for interfering in a corruption investigation. Prosecutors had demanded he be sentenced to 12 years.
Fredrich did not react well to the verdict, to say the least. The famous attorney, who regularly made TV appearances before his arrest (sometimes talking about his love of luxury vacations) made some dramatic pronouncements about what his guilty verdict meant for the Indonesian justice system.
“The advocate’s role has been ruined because we have been trampled by law enforcement, so for advocates this is like G30S (referring to the infamous September 30, 1965 Communist coup attempt). So June 28 has become the day that advocacy died,” Fredrich said in court as quoted by Kompas (he had reportedly been belligerent and combative throughout his trial, which the judges noted in their sentencing).
Friedreich’s obstruction case centered on the events of November 16. The day before, Novanto disappeared shortly before the KPK went to his house to arrest him. The former Golkar politicians’ whereabouts were unknown until the 16th when it was reported he had been involved in a car accident.
According to Fredrich, Novanto had been in a car on the way to KPK headquarters to turn himself in to authorities when the driver crashed into an electrical pole on the side of the road. Novanto was then rushed to Medika Permata Hijau Hospital after allegedly sustaining severe injuries including, in Friedrich’s words, a bump on his head as big as a “bakpao” (Chinese steamed bun).
Dr. Bimanesh Sutarjo, who was named a co-conspirator in Fredrich’s obstruction of justice case, backed up the lawyer’s claims and tried to prevent KPK investigators from gaining custody of Novanto on medical grounds. However, the KPK was soon able to bring in their own independent medical examiners who confirmed that Novanto had not suffered severe injuries, allowing investigators to take custody of the politician, move him to a new medical facility and have him arrested.
Shortly after his client’s arrest, Fredrich dropped out as Novanto’s legal counsel. But that didn’t stop the KPK from arresting Fredrich in January on charges that he obstructed justice by trying to deceive investigators regarding Novanto’s health.
During the trial, a litany of witnesses testified to Fredrich and Dr. Bimanesh’s duplicity surrounding the case. One emergency room doctor said he had been instructed by both Fredrich and Dr. Bimanesh to fake medical records showing Novanto had suffered severe injuries even before the politician had been brought to the hospital. In the end it was Dr. Bimanesh, a kidney specialist, who ended up diagnosing Novanto’s car crash injuries (which obviously looked a little suspicious to investigators).
The hospital’s attending doctor at the time of the incident told the court that Fredrich had booked a VIP room at the hospital prior to Setya’s alleged accident. Two nurses testified to the fact that Novanto’s body was covered with a blanket when he entered the hospital, which was very unusual for car accident victims. They also told the court that Novanto did not appear to have any severe injuries on his face or head, contradicting Fredrich’s “bakpao” claim.
The overwhelming evidence that Fredrich and Dr. Bimanesh had conspired to try and keep Setya out of the hands of the KPK investigators was enough to convince the judges to find the lawyer guilty yesterday. Dr. Bimanesh (who now claims that he was tricked into helping Fredrich) is still undergoing trial but prosecutors have demanded he be given 6 years in prison.
Fredrich immediately declared that he would appeal his verdict after it had been read out. KPK prosecutors said they were also considering appealing the judge’s sentence for being too light compared to their original 12-year demand.