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Judicial panel dismisses Indonesia chief justice

Anwar Usman was convicted for 'gross violation' of court's ethics code by altering presidential candidacy rules
Constitutional Court judges Anwar Usman (left) and Suhartoyo (right) talk to each other during a hearing to rule on a petition to amend the presidential candidature requirement, in Jakarta on Oct. 16.

Constitutional Court judges Anwar Usman (left) and Suhartoyo (right) talk to each other during a hearing to rule on a petition to amend the presidential candidature requirement, in Jakarta on Oct. 16. (Photo: AFP)

Published: November 08, 2023 04:59 AM GMT
Updated: November 08, 2023 05:03 AM GMT

A judicial panel dismissed Indonesia's top judge on Tuesday after finding him guilty of an ethics violation over his role in a ruling that allowed President Joko Widodo's son to run for vice president.

Chief Justice Anwar Usman, who is Widodo's brother-in-law, was found guilty of a "gross violation" of the court's ethics code for deciding with the 5-4 majority that changed the rules around candidacy for the presidency and vice presidency.

The ruling, issued just months before general elections in February, paved the way for Widodo's eldest son Gibran Rakabuming Raka to run for vice president alongside Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto.

The judicial panel found that in failing to "recuse himself from the examination and decision-making process," Usman had violated the "judge's ethical code's principle of neutrality".

Former chief justice Jimly Asshiddiqie, who led the three-member panel, said it had dismissed Usman from his position as the constitutional court's chief justice, but allowed him to retain his position as a justice.

Usman will no longer be eligible to nominate himself or be nominated by other justices to chair the court until his term ends. He must also recuse himself from deciding election result disputes that pose "a potential conflict of interest", Asshiddique said.

Usman's successor as chief justice will be elected by the nine-member constitutional court over the next two days, he added.

In a dissenting opinion, panel member Bintan R. Saragih said Usman should be "dishonorably dismissed" from his position as a court justice considering his gross violation of the court's ethics code.

Speaking after reading the council's decision, Asshiddiqie said they had decided against firing Usman as a court justice because it would require the establishment of an appeals panel and create uncertainty ahead of the elections.

"We need certainty to not create problems that could result in the election process that is not peaceful," he said.

The choice of 36-year-old Raka, currently the mayor of Surakarta city, to be a vice presidential candidate for the February vote has fuelled criticism in Indonesia that Widodo is trying to create a political dynasty in the world's third-largest democracy.

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