February 17, 2015 / 3:28 AM / in 3 years

Indonesia's Widodo tested as anti-graft chief named suspect in tit-for-tat feud

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian police named the head of the anti-graft agency a suspect in a corruption case on Tuesday, the latest twist in a tit-for-tat feud between the rival organizations that has presented the new president with his biggest challenge to date.

Corruption Eradication Agency (KPK) chief Abraham Samad gestures during an interview at his officec in Jakarta April 10, 2013. REUTERS/Beawiharta

Hostilities between the police and Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) have gone unchecked by President Joko Widodo, whose perceived indecisiveness has dented his popularity and raised questions about his anti-graft credentials in one of Asia’s most corrupt countries.

The two most senior KPK officials have now been identified by police as suspects in different criminal cases, casting doubt over the future of the agency.

After questioning more than 20 witnesses, police said they had enough evidence to name KPK head Abraham Samad as a suspect in the falsification of a passport back in 2007.

“Abraham Samad has been named a suspect for falsifying a document,” Endi Sutendi, spokesman for South and West Sulawesi police, told reporters.

Samad told reporters he would respect the legal process, but said he did not understand why he had been named a suspect.

Widodo, the popular former governor of the capital, narrowly won a July election with the promise to jaded voters of bringing clean, effective government.

But a survey published by a local pollster this month showed just 45 percent of Indonesians were satisfied with Widodo’s performance, down drastically from 72 percent in August.

“If we hope to attract large private investment in the current conditions, with corruption rampant, will it be successful?” said John Rachmat, head of research at local brokerage Mandiri Sekuritas.

Samad has also faced accusations in parliament of taking part in politics while serving as KPK chief, casting doubt on the agency’s neutrality.

Samad’s deputy, Bambang Widjojanto, was named as a suspect by police last month in a 2010 perjury complaint. Widjojanto has offered to resign temporarily, but that has yet to be approved by Samad or Widodo.

Police had earlier threatened to name the agency’s four most senior commissioners as suspects in various criminal cases. Under Indonesian law, police can name individuals as suspects without detailing charges.

The moves against the KPK are widely seen as retaliation for the agency’s decision last month to name police chief nominee Budi Gunawan a suspect in a bribery case, which forced Widodo to delay his appointment indefinitely.

But a court this week invalidated the KPK’s decision, claiming it had no legal basis. The KPK has yet to respond.

Writing by Randy Fabi and Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Nick Macfie

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