Defence lawyers part ways with Setya Novanto ahead of graft trial

Two defence lawyers acting for Indonesia's Speaker of Parliament Setya Novanto have parted ways with the politician over a difference in opinion with their client.

JAKARTA - Defence lawyers acting for Indonesia's Speaker of Parliament Setya Novanto have parted ways with the politician, less than a week before he is set to stand trial for corruption charges.

Mr Fredrich Yunadi told The Straits Times on Saturday (Dec 9) that he and Mr Otto Hasibuan have withdrawn themselves from acting for Novanto in the multi-trillion rupiah graft case.

"Yes, my friend Otto and I have officially resigned from our client Setya Novanto, but his other applications in the Constitutional Court and reports filed with the police, are still being handled by me," he said.

The case is now in the hands of another prominent lawyer Maqdir Ismail, added Mr Fredrich.

The two lawyers left over a difference in opinion with their client, according to Mr Otto.

"I quit because I wanted to my maintain my independence and integrity as a lawyer, so for my client's interests and my own integrity, I have stepped down," said Mr Otto.

This is a major setback for Novanto, coming after the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) secured a trial date of Dec 13 from the Corruption Court in Jakarta.

Novanto had earlier filed a pre-trial motion at the South Jakarta District Court to get the charges against him thrown out before the corruption trial begins. A ruling on this pre-trial motion however will likely be declared void because it is expected to be made only on Dec 14, after the trial begins.

Novanto has been declared a suspect by KPK in a massive corruption case involving dozens of politicians taking kickbacks from the e-KTP - a biometric electronic identity card - project in 2010.

Indictments on the e-KTP case filed in March allege that at least 37 members of a parliamentary committee had received bribes in exchange for approving a 5.9 trillion rupiah (S$606 million) budget for the project.

Novanto was relieved of his duties as Golkar party chairman in November, a few days after he was detained by the KPK for alleged corruption, and declared a suspect over US$170 million of stolen state funds linked to the e-KTP project.

Parliamentary rules also state that a member can be suspended and temporarily replaced if he is indicted and becomes a defendant in a court hearing, which in Novanto's case would take place on Wednesday (Dec 13).

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