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Governor of Aceh Province Charged

December 7, 2004

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ Authorities on Tuesday arrested and charged the governor of the war-ravaged Aceh province in northern Sumatra in a high-profile corruption case that will test Indonesia’s newly formed anti-graft court.

The case against Gov. Abdullah Puteh is expected to complicate efforts to restore civilian rule to Aceh after martial law _ imposed there last year to help crush a long-running separatist insurgency _ was lifted in May.

Puteh has denied any wrongdoing and refused to step down, despite the charges that he illegally profited from a 2002 deal to buy a helicopter for his regional government.

If tried as expected within 90 days, Puteh will be the first suspect to appear before the country’s Special Corruption Court, established in 2003 to help fight the graft that is endemic in Indonesian society.

Recently elected President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has vowed a crackdown. Many analysts, however, doubt the reform credentials of the 55-year-old retired general, who himself was a key figure in Indonesia’s corrupt political and military elite before taking office in October.

Puteh will be jailed until his trial, said anti-corruption agency deputy chairman Erry Riyana Hardjapamekas. ``This is standard procedure if we fear a suspect may try to run away or destroy evidence,″ he said.

He declined to give details of the charges or the maximum punishment they carried.

Meanwhile, Yudhoyono summoned senior military and government officials to discuss who would oversee the Aceh administration during Puteh’s detention. Jakarta has been fighting the separatist Free Aceh Movement since 1976, and at least 13,000 people have been killed, including more than 2,000 in the past year.

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