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Indonesian Judge Rules in Favor of Police Chief Nominee

Supporters of national police chief nominee Budi Gunawan rally outside the presidential palace in support of his confirmation, in Jakarta, Indonesia, Feb. 16, 2015.

An Indonesian judge has ruled against the nation's anti-corruption commission in its investigation of General Budi Gunawan, national police chief nominee.

In a pre-trial hearing in Jakarta, Judge Sarpin Rizaldi said the commission, known as KPK, had no authority to investigate or prosecute corruption cases involving law enforcement officers or state officials.

“The investigation warrant ... has been declared invalid, therefore the status as a suspect by KPK of [Gunawan] must be declared invalid," he said.

A member of KPK’s Legal Bureau said KPK is studying the judge’s verdict before deciding what action to take.

Gunawan was alleged to have received gifts when he was the Chief of Human Resources and Career Development at the National Police Headquarters from 2003-2006.

President Joko Widodo says he will make a final decision this week on his controversial nominee, who has been approved by Parliament. He met with his Cabinet late Monday after the ruling was issued, but it is not known if the nomination was discussed.

But Yunata Widjaya, executive director of the political consulting firm Indonesia Charta Politika, said the president should not depend only on a pretrial verdict.

“Whoever is chosen must not have a track record of a potential legal problem, not only as a suspect, but a potential legal problem. Just imagine having an active KAPOLRI (chief of police) involved in a legal case. A KAPOLRI nominee who then became a suspect, the furor in the country would be unimaginable," he said.

President Widodo has taken the unusual step of having almost all of his high-ranking appointees vetted by the nation's Anti-Corruption Commission, the KPK. But one glaring exception was Gunawan, whom the KPK named a corruption suspect.

Since the president announced a delay in the appointment last month, the national police have arrested and released the KPK deputy commissioner and targeted three other commissioners for possible arrest.

The president ran for office and won, at least partly, because of a tough anti-corruption agenda.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA’s Indonesian Service.