One Article, Two Interpretations

THE “battle” began on Thursday last week. At the Central Jakarta District Court, lawyer Mohammad Assegaf spoke loudly. “The prosecutor’s case review is baseless,” he said. Assegaf is the lawyer representing Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, the Garuda pilot whom the Supreme Court acquitted of having killed Munir.

Wirawan Adnan, also Polly’s lawyer, questioned the step taken by the prosecutor, because the Criminal Code (KUHAP) only gives the right of a case review (PK) to the accused and their heirs. “The prosecutor has no right,” said Wirawan, citing Article 263 of the KUHAP.

Adnan quoted the official explanation of Article 263, which stated that this regulation was restrictive. This means, only those specifically mentioned in the article have the right to a case review. “The prosecutor has already given three chances to press charges, starting from the district court, the high court, and to the Supreme Court. So, if he is acquitted, don’t keep on investigating,” he said. “If a prosecutor is allowed to make a case review, the accused could be tried in court forever.”

The Attorney General’s Office has a different argument. They are also referring to the same article of the Criminal Code. According to Deputy Attorney General for General Crimes, Abdul Hakim Ritonga, the article mentions nothing about the accused and next of kin to file for a case review, except in an acquittal. Pollycarpus was not acquitted in the previous court since he was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for forging his letters of assignment. “There is nothing blocking the prosecutor from submitting a case review,” asserted Ritonga.

Referring to the case of Muchtar Pakpahan, the public prosecutors this time are not only filing for a case review. Pakpahan, Chairman of the Indonesian Prosperous Workers Union (SBSI) was brought to trial because he was charged with inciting workers’ protests in Medan in 1994. The Medan District Court and the high court sentenced him to four years in prison. Muchtar was released after he appealed. In 1996, the public prosecutor filed for a case review and Muchtar was forced to serve his four-year-sentence.

Ritonga also cited the statement of a legal expert regarding the doctrine of criminal law, who said that in a criminal case, the prosecutor represents the interests of the victim. “The prosecutor represents the interests of the public in order to fulfill a sense of justice,” said this former head of the South Sulawesi provincial AGO. “This case review is a way to seek the truth.”

In the view of criminal law expert Andi Hamzah, the Criminal Code only gives this right to the family and its heirs. “According to the KUHAP, the public prosecutor is not allowed to use a case review for cases which end in acquittal,” said Hamzah, a lecturer at the University of Indonesia’s School of Law. Hamzah feels that Pollycarpus was acquitted in the Munir murder case, that the two-year prison sentence was for another case. Even if the prosecutor cites the Muchtar Pakpahan case as a precedent, he said, “It is [still] against the law.”

In the Munir case, Andi feels the public prosecutor could actually file a different charge if the situation changed. In the first charges filed, the suspicion was that Munir was killed in a Garuda plane on a Jakarta-Singapore flight. According to the evidence used by the prosecutors for the case review, Munir was allegedly killed at Changi Airport in Singapore. “If the circumstances change, it does not fall under nebis in idem,” said Hamzah, who heads the Criminal Code amendment team. Nebis in idem is a legal principle which forbids anyone from being tried twice for the same charge.

According to Chairman of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation, Patra M. Zain, there is a dilemma in the case, and that is between seeking the material truth and the matter of legal certainty for the accused. “In the search for the material truth, a case review must take place,” he said.

Abdul Manan and Sandy Indra Pratama

Tempo Magazine, No. 51/VII/August 21 – 27, 2007

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