Friday, May 12, 2006

Jakarta drops case against Suharto

By Peter Gelling International Herald Tribune
FRIDAY, MAY 12, 2006

JAKARTA Charges of corruption and graft against Suharto, the former Indonesian president, were dropped Friday.
The 84-year-old Suharto, who had been facing legal proceedings since 2000 for amassing more than $600 million during his 32-year rule, underwent colon surgery in the past week and remains hospitalized.
"The graft case against the defendant, Suharto, has been closed," Attorney General Abdul Rahman Saleh said. He added that an independent team of doctors had conferred with Suharto's own doctors and determined that his health was "not good."
However, he said the case could be reopened if there were "new developments," suggesting Suharto could still be tried if his health improves, The Associated Press reported.
Suharto's lawyers have long argued that he is mentally unfit to stand trial after suffering a series of strokes. Since the charges were filed six years ago, Suharto has never appeared in court.
The announcement relieves President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of having to decide whether to drop the charges, a decision he had been struggling with over the past week. Earlier Friday, he had said that he would delay making any decision on Suharto's fate because the issue was too divisive and might spark demonstrations or riots.
State Secretary Yusril Ihza Mahendra, who was told by the president to investigate the possibility of dropping charges, said Thursday that the government was likely to halt any prosecution and that it would even work to rehabilitate the ex-leader's name.
Suharto is largely blamed for cultivating the corrupted interplay between politics and business that the Indonesian government is now desperately trying to root out.
Rahman, the attorney general, said prosecutors were still investigating a total of 3.4 trillion rupiah, or $392.5 million, that was allegedly collected by seven fund-raising foundations controlled by Suharto.
The former general came to power in the aftermath of an alleged communist coup and remained in power for more than three decades. His reign came to an end in 1998 after the Asian financial crisis led to mass protests and student riots that eventually forced his resignation. Many analysts believe that institutionalized corruption under Suharto prolonged Indonesia's recovery from the crisis.
Suharto, however, also presided over a time of economic stability in Indonesia, and is still supported by many Indonesians.


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