Speaker of Indonesian parliament denies Freeport extortion allegation
By Fergus Jensen and Arzia Tivany Wargadiredja
JAKARTA Dec 7 (Reuters) - The speaker of Indonesia's parliament on Monday denied seeking to extort shares in the local unit of Freeport McMoRan Inc to ensure a contract extension for the mining firm, a member of the assembly's ethics panel said.
Freeport, which operates one of the world's biggest copper and gold mines, is at the centre of a major political scandal after the head of its Indonesian operations told the panel last week he had secretly recorded a meeting in which speaker Setya Novanto asked for a 20 percent stake.
The panel summoned Novanto for questioning on Monday, but the speaker - a senior member of Indonesia's second-biggest political party, Golkar - asked for a closed-door hearing.
"What is clear is that he denied the accusations or reports, including the contents of the recording that became the basis for the ethics council to hear this case," council member Akbar Faisal told reporters after the hearing.
Journalists thronged the parliament on Monday, but a row of security officers kept them out of the room where the hearing was held.
Novanto dodged the journalists, entering by a side entrance.
His assistant did not respond to telephone calls seeking comment.
"We have to respect the process," President Joko Widodo told reporters. "But if it is said that there is profiteering, asking for shares, that is not done. This is about decency, morality, and the authority of the state." Continuación...