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Indonesia’s anti-corruption chief arrested

JAKARTA, Indonesia – The chief of Indonesia’s anti-corruption watchdog was arrested as a suspect in a murder investigation, an embarrassing blow to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as he seeks re-election on a “good governance” platform.

Antasari Azhar, 56, has overseen a series of high-profile probes into government officials and institutions since taking the helm of the independent Corruption Eradication Commission, better known as the KPK, two years ago.

He has not officially been charged with a crime and has denied wrongdoing.

Azhar was arrested Monday after eight hours of questioning at police headquarters as a suspect in March 14′s killing of businessman Nasrudin Zulkarnaen, who was shot through the window of his car by two motorcycle gunmen as he was leaving a golf course on the outskirts of the capital, Jakarta, said police spokesman Col. Chrysnanda Dwilaksana.

He refused to comment on the motive or local media reports alleging it was a crime of passion — relatives of the victim claimed both Zulkarnaen and Azhar were involved with a 22-year-old female golf caddy.

The defendant’s lawyer, Denny Kailimang, would only say his client was in police custody.

Indonesia ranks as one of the world’s most corrupt countries and Yudhoyono’s vows to crack down on graft helped him win 2004 elections. Several key politicians, lawmakers, central bank officials and businessmen have been arrested since then, helping boost the president’s image and putting him on course to win another five-year term in July.

Few analysts believe Monday’s arrest will affect his re-election bid.

Azhar made no comment to reporters as he was led away by police.

But he said over the weekend his efforts to put high-ranking officials behind bars has earned him many enemies — implying his arrest was the result of a smear campaign. But he said he respected the legal process and would cooperate with authorities.

“I and my family are ready to face this case,” Azhar said.

Teten Masduki, secretary general of Transparency International Indonesia, said he did not expect the arrest to derail the country’s larger anti-graft fight.

“The achievements of the KPK were not his alone,” he said. “There are four other members and they will continue to do their work.”

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.

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