May 05, 2009

Antasari Azhar - Indonesia anti-corruption chief arrested in murder

The chief of Indonesia's anti-corruption watchdog was arrested Monday and named a suspect in the murder of a prominent state company official, police and his lawyer said. Antasari Azhar, who has overseen a series of high-profile investigations into government officials and institutions, has not been charged and has denied wrongdoing.

He was arrested Monday after eight hours of questioning at police headquarters in the capital, Jakarta, as a suspect in the drive-by shooting of businessperson Nasrudin Zulkarnaen, said police spokesman Col. Chrysnanda Dwilaksana.

Antasari Azhar, head of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), arrives for questioning at the police headquarters in Jakarta May 4, 2009. T

he head of the Jakarta police said on Monday that Azhar is a suspect in the murder of Nasrudin Zulkarnaen, a director of state-owned pharmaceutical firm Putra Rajawali Banjaran, Zulkarnaen, who was shot by two gunmen in March, had been a witness in a corruption case investigated by the agency. Reuters/Crack Palinggi Azhar's lawyer, Denny Kailimang, confirmed the report but had no further comment. Indonesia ranks as one of the world's most corrupt countries, and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's vows to crack down on graft helped him win 2004 elections.

Several arrests of key officials by the independently run Corruption Eradication Commission have boosted his chances for re-election this June. Azhar, who has headed the agency since 2007, told reporters over the weekend that his efforts to put lawmakers, central bank officials and even government prosecutors behind bars have earned him many enemies.

He appeared to be implying that his arrest was the result of a plot against him. He denied involvement in Zulkarnaen's murder, but said he would cooperate with authorities in the probe. "I and my family are ready to face this case," Azhar said. Zulkarnaen was the director of PT Putra Rajawali Banjaran, a state-owned pharmaceutical company, and had been serving as a witness in a graft case before his March 14 murder.

Associated Press writer Ali Kotarumalos contributed to this report from Jakarta

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