'Ill' Indonesian Speaker charged in connection with graft scandal

JAKARTA: Indonesian prosecutors charged a former parliament speaker in connection with a US$170 million (S$230m) graft scandal after he held up proceedings for hours at the opening of his trial, claiming a bout of diarrhoea had left him too ill to participate.

Setya Novanto has been brought to trial by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), which suspects extensive pilfering of public funds linked to a national identity card programme.

Novanto, who resigned as Speaker of Parliament this week, has denied wrongdoing, Reuters reported.

He had managed to cling to power through several previous corruption cases and repeatedly missed writs of summons for questioning by the anti-graft agency in connection with this case in recent months, saying he needed heart surgery.

Novanto, who arrived at court in a white shirt and a bright orange jacket usually worn by the KPK's graft suspects, said he had diarrhoea and needed medical attention.

Prosecutors from the KPK said he was lying and that doctors had given him a clean bill of health earlier yesterday.

He declined to confirm to the court details such as his name or place of birth.

After long delays to allow doctors to examine Novanto, the presiding judge at the Jakarta corruption court let prosecutors read out the charges, which included unlawful intervention in the procurement process of the identity cards.

"We are sure the defendant is healthy and can follow the court proceedings. This is part of the defendant's lies," prosecutor Irene Putri said as defence lawyers called for more medical examinations for their client.

The KPK is investigating state losses amounting to about $170 million linked to the national electronic identity card scheme after allegations that money was divided up among politicians.

KPK investigators last month put Novanto under armed guard in hospital and then took him into custody.

His case has riveted the media and captured the attention of social media users, many of whom have mocked him in widely shared posts.