His arrest as a suspect in the murder of Nasrudin Zulkarnaen, a prominent businessman, is a blow to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose image has been boosted by the crackdown on corruption and who is seeking re-election on a platform of good governance.
Mr Azhar’s lawyer denied that his client masterminded the murder of Mr Zulkamen, the director of a major state-owned pharmacy, describing the killing as a “grand scenario” to destroy an honourable crime fighter.
Two days after his murder, police reportedly found a text message on his mobile phone from Mr Azhar saying: “You know the risk.”
Police were also alerted to Mr Zulkarnaen’s involvement with a 22-year-old golf caddy with whom, Mr Zulkarnaen’s family claim, Mr Azhar was also infatuated.
A friend of Mr Zulkarnaen claimed that the businessman threatened to expose Mr Azhar’s relationship with the young woman, named by Indonesia media as Rani Julianti. Jeffrey Lumempouw, a golf partner of Mr Zulkarnaen, told Indonesian journalists that he was told of the text message on the course just hours before the murder.
Police have already arrested the alleged killer and his alleged recruiter – reported to be a senior police officer. The owner of the newspaper Harian Merdeka is accused of financing the plot and has been arrested along with one other alleged financier.
Mr Azhar said that he respected the legal process and would co-operate with authorities.
“I and my family are ready to face this case,” he said.