The Leaderboard: Sarpin Rizaldi

The Leaderboard profiles the people behind the policies of the Asia-Pacific.Who is he?

Sarpin Rizaldi is a controversial judge with the South Jakarta District Court in Indonesia. He has been reported to the Judicial Commission, a body that oversees judges in Indonesia, on multiple occasions for having issued abnormally lenient rulings to high-profile suspects.

Why is he in the news?

In a February pre-trial ruling, Sarpin invalidated the graft suspect status of then-police chief nominee Budi Gunawan. His ruling effectively took Budi’s case away from the jurisdiction of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), Indonesia’s anti-graft agency, which had named Budi a suspect in a large-scale bribery scheme because of suspicious activity in his bank account. Sarpin’s decision was condemned among Indonesia’s legal circles as a violation of the country’s criminal code, which does not allow pre-trial hearings to decide on a person’s status as a suspect.

By clearing Budi’s name, Sarpin’s ruling paved the way for Budi to be appointed deputy police chief on April 22. Budi’s appointment is seen by the KPK’s supporters as a setback to the agency’s efforts to fight corruption in a bureaucracy notoriously known for red tape. Budi’s precedent has paved the way for several other high-profile defendants to attempt to challenge their status as corruption suspects in pre-trial hearings.

What can we expect from him?

The Judicial Commission in late April questioned Sarpin for ethical violations related to Budi’s case. He has already rejected one summons from the commission, telling Tempo magazine that he was answerable only to God. Sarpin could be relieved of his duties should the commission find him guilty. In the meantime, the KPK continues to grapple with a number of pre-trial motions filed by graft suspects seeking to have their cases dismissed in what the local media has dubbed the “Sarpin effect.”


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