An Indonesian judge found the country’s former anti-graft chief guilty on Thursday of masterminding the murder of a state businessman, but spared him the death penalty prosecutors had sought.

Judge Herri Swantoro convicted Antasari Azhar, a former head of the independent Corruption Eradication Commission, of the March 15 killing of Nasrudin Zulkarnaen, director of pharmaceutical company PT Putra Rajawali Banjaran. He was shot through the window of his car as he left a golf course on the outskirts of the capital, Jakarta.

Azhar, 56, was sentenced to 18 years in prison. “The defendant has been proven guilty of conspiring to plot a premeditated murder,” Mr. Swantoro said.

Prosecutors accused Azhar of ordering Zulkarnaen’s killing in a bid to keep him from exposing an incident of alleged sexual harassment between Azhar and Zulkarnaen’s wife.

Azhar has denied wrongdoing, and described his arrest as a smear campaign in retaliation for his efforts to put high-ranking officials behind bars for corruption.

The case attracted huge interest across the country, and the verdict was broadcast live on national television, carrying the banner, “The end of the Antasari drama.”

The five hit men involved in Zulkarnaen’s killing each received between 17 and 18 years’ imprisonment.

In separate trials on Thursday, police colonel Williardi Wizar was convicted and sentenced to 12 years for recruiting the hit men, and businessman Sigit Haryo Wibisono sentenced to 15 years for financing the operation. Prosecutors had asked for the death penalty for both.

Jerry Hermawan Lo, another businessman who introduced the hit men to Wizar, received the lightest sentence of five years. Prosecutors had asked for 15.

In his two years as head of the anti-graft commission - better known as the KPK - Azhar oversaw a series of high-profile probes into government officials and institutions, including the father-in-law of one of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s sons.

The case against Azhar came amid a high-level plot to undermine the KPK, in which two of the commission’s deputies were arrested on bogus charges of bribery and blackmail.

Anti-graft watchdogs regularly rank Indonesia as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.


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