Mocked online, Indonesian house speaker taken into custody
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Mocked online, Indonesian house speaker taken into custody

INDONESIAN parliamentary speaker Setya Novanto has been taken into custody by the country’s anti-corruption agency.

Accused of causing state losses of US$170 million linked to a government programme to issue electronic identity cards known as E-KTP, Setya was transferred from hospital to a detention facility operated by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) on Sunday night.

Setya’s arrest was delayed as he was treated in a Jakarta hospital after a car crash. He is one of the most high-profile figures to be targeted by the independent KPK, which has the power to prosecute those investigates for graft.

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On Sunday night, Setya told reporters he was still suffering from vertigo after the crash that he said had injured a leg, an arm and his head. “I thought I would be given time for recovery, but I obey the law,” he said as quoted by local news site Kumparan.com.

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Fredrich shows a picture of Setya being treated in a hospital following a car accident in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Nov 6, 2017. Source: Antara Foto/Galih Pradipta/via Reuters

The house speaker, who is also the chairman of Indonesia’s second-largest political party Golkar and partner in the ruling coalition, will be held for 20 days for questioning, said KPK spokesman Febri Diansyah.

He will be detained in a sparsely-furnished holding cell with some mattresses and a shared toilet.

The KPK had attempted to arrest Setya on Wednesday night at his Jakarta home, but were unable to find him, sparking public speculation that he had gone into hiding.

He was later involved in a car crash, which was being driven by a journalist who was interviewing him, Setya’s lawyer Fredrich Yunadi said. The timing of the accident caused netizens to widely mock the politician, claiming it had been staged to avoid arrest.

Setya’s legal battle with the graft agency has gripped Indonesia, with newspaper front pages splashing the story and social media circulating memes mocking him.

On Sunday the hashtag #SaveTiangListik or “save electric pole” went viral in Indonesia.

Nevertheless, Jakarta’s deputy director of traffic police confirmed it was an accident.

FBI helping investigation

Setya has denied wrongdoing but has repeatedly missed summonses for questioning by the agency in recent months, saying he was ill and needed heart surgery.

The agency is investigating state losses of about US$170 million after allegations that sums ranging from US$5,000 to US$5.5 million, generated by marking up procurement costs for the ID cards, were divided up among politicians in parliament.

He was first named a suspect in July and then again on Nov 10 after he had used a controversial legal manoeuvre, a pre-trial motion, to get the earlier charges dropped. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo told reporters on Monday that he had asked Setya to “follow the legal process”.

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The KPK has been collaborating with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation on the case, the KPK spokesman said. The FBI has been investigating the activities of Johannes Marliem, a US-based contractor for the ID card scheme, who later committed suicide in Los Angeles.

Setya gained a measure of international fame in September 2015 when Donald Trump, then a US presidential candidate, hailed him as a “great man” at a news conference.

“Do they like me in Indonesia?” Trump asked after introducing Setya to reporters at Trump Tower. “Yes, highly,” He replied.

Additional reporting from Reuters