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Former anti-graft chief murder case raises corruption woes

By Anna Coren, CNN
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Sex, murder and corruption
  • Antasari Azhar convicted of ordering the killing of businessman
  • The businessman had threatened to blackmail Antasari over affair
  • Antasari says he is innocent; victim of a plot
  • Court sentences him to 18 years; prosecutors had sought death penalty

Jakarta, Indonesia (CNN) -- Hundreds of photographers, camera crews and journalists pushed and shoved each other at the South Jakarta District Court trying to catch a glimpse of the man at the center of a crime that has captivated a nation.

Dressed in a yellow floral shirt, neatly groomed hair and glasses, Antasari Azhar looked composed and respectable, carrying the air of a man who used to run the country's powerful anti-corruption agency.

His wife and family sat in the front of the packed courthouse in stifling heat, appearing exhausted. This has been their life since Antasari Azhar's arrest in May 2009.

The 56-year-old Antasari was charged with ordering the shooting murder of wealthy businessman Nasrudin Zulkarnaen over a love triangle involving the businessman's third wife.

Antasari sat patiently and with little expression as the three judges read out the 179-page judgment over six hours.

When they finally announced the guilty verdict, he maintained his composure. His wife, however, wept when they read out the 18-year sentence. The prosecution had sought the death penalty.

The wife of victim Nasrudin, aged 22, who appears in photos with Antasari on her Facebook page, worked as a female golf caddy. Prosecutors said the woman and Antasari were having an affair, and when Nasrudin found out, he threatened to blackmail the anti-corruption boss.

Nasrudin, a director of pharmaceutical company PT Putra Rajawali Banjara, was found dead in his car, after being shot in the head through the driver's window while leaving a golf course on the outskirts of Jakarta.

Antasari maintained his innocence, claiming he was the victim of a set-up. As boss of the Corruption Eradication Commission, also known as KPK, he claimed he gathered a long list of enemies while putting many of Indonesia's elite and high profile government officials behind bars.

His attorney, Juniver Girsang, said they plan to appeal the verdict and he alleged that police had fabricated evidence against his client.

"We are very disappointed with the verdict, we thought we would get a fair and just judgment," he said, alleging: "The police and the prosecutor have succumbed into the plot" to bring Antasari down.

The prosecution is considering an appeal of the sentence.

Before his two-year tenure as anti-corruption chief, Antasari worked as a public prosecutor and was involved in the pursuit of convicted murderer Tommy Suharto, the youngest son of the late President Suharto.

KPK was set up during the presidency of Megawati Sukarnoputri. The body has become even more powerful and effective under current President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who made anti-corruption reform his key platform for re-election last year. He told the public, "Let's make our system clean."

But this case has come as a major blow to his presidency and his track record on stamping out corruption.

Danang Widoyoko, of Indonesian Corruption Watch, said the public was fed up with the culture that allows corruption in everyday life. But he said he was also encouraged by the number of people who take to the streets to protest against it.

"I'm quite optimistic of Indonesian corruption eradication. Not because we have KPK, but because our people will not tolerate it anymore. People unite on this issue regardless of whether their students, laborers or farmers. They come together to fight against corruption."

CNN's Andy Saputra contributed to this report