Indonesian judge found guilty of ethical violations over ruling that favoured president’s son

By Ananda Teresia and Gayatri Suroyo

JAKARTA (Reuters) -A judicial panel in Indonesia on Tuesday found the Constitutional Court’s chief justice guilty of a conflict of interest over his part in a ruling that allowed President Joko Widodo’s son to run for the vice presidency.

Anwar Usman, who is the president’s brother-in-law, was ordered to step down as the court’s senior judge for his failure to recuse himself from a case in which the outcome benefited his nephew, Gibran Rakabuming Raka.

Gibran is Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto’s running mate for the Feb. 14 election.

The ethics panel, which cannot change the outcome of the case, said Anwar could remain one of the court’s nine judges but must not take part in any election cases in which he could have a conflict of interest.

The panel was formed to probe the conduct of judges amid a public outcry after they ruled a minimum age requirement of 40 need not apply to all election candidates, paving the way for Gibran, 36, to join the race.

Anwar “was proven to have violated judges’ ethical code specifically the principle of neutrality and integrity as he did not recuse himself,” the panel said.

It said, without elaborating, that Anwar “had purposely opened a room for intervention from an external party” and thus had “violated the principle of independence”.

The ruling, which came just three days out from the start of registration for the election, caused a huge stir in Indonesia and prompted allegations the president had influenced the court’s decision.

Jokowi, as the president is popularly known, has faced accusations from critics that he interfered in the decision. He has declined to comment on the court ruling and the allegations.

The panel reprimanded the other eight judges for violations of the ethical code, including allowing Anwar to be part of the decision. Anwar could not be immediately reached for comment.

The inclusion of Gibran was initially seen by some political experts as a boon for the campaign of Prabowo, a third-time presidential contender, allowing him potentially to tap into some of Jokowi’s huge support base.

Jokowi is finishing his second and final term and has not formally backed a candidate, though some political insiders say he is quietly playing the role of kingmaker to try to retain influence when he leaves office, having previously pledged support for the ruling party’s Ganjar Pranowo while tacitly backing Prabowo.

(Reporting by Ananda Teresia; Editing by Martin Petty and Angus MacSwan)