Indonesia politician's graft trial delayed by stomach woes

By NINIEK KARMINIMarketsAssociated Press

A top Indonesian politician accused of involvement in one of the country's biggest corruption scandals told a court on the first day of his trial that he was suffering a stomach complaint, forcing a postponement while his medical condition was checked.

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Lawyers for Setya Novanto, the former speaker of Indonesia's parliament, argued Wednesday he was too ill to stand trial but prosecutors said he was in good health. Judges postponed the hearing until later in the day.

Novanto was allegedly part of a conspiracy of dozens of officials who used the introduction of an electronic ID system to steal more than $170 million of public money.

He evaded questioning by anti-corruption officials for months but was arrested in November at a hospital after being involved in a car accident.

In court Wednesday, Novanto initially refused to respond to repeated questions from judges and then told the court, "I am suffering diarrhea, I asked for drugs but they were not given."

Prosecutors said prison guards reported he was coughing in his cell.

"This is a lie by the defendant," state prosecutor Irene Putri told the court before Novanto was excused for a checkup.

After two postponements, during which the defendant was examined at the court clinic, the five-judge panel concluded that he was fit to face trial and the hearing resumed.

The panel then allowed prosecutors to read out the indictment, in which Novanto was accused of involvement in the scandal and enriching himself and others.

Novanto, also a senior figure in the Golkar party, which is part of Indonesia's governing coalition, has denied any wrongdoing.

An admirer of U.S. President Donald Trump, Novanto made an unexpected appearance at a Trump news conference at Trump Tower in New York in September 2015 along with another Indonesian lawmaker, Fadli Zon. Novanto was introduced by Trump as one of Indonesia's most powerful men who would do great things for the U.S.