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Former President Suharto charged with corruption JAKARTA - Former Indonesian President Suharto, who stepped down in 1998 amid widespread protests against his authoritarian rule, was charged Thursday with corruption. "Suharto's status, as of today, is as an accused," Yushar Yahya, spokesman for Indonesia's attorney general's office, told reporters.

The charge alleges Suharto, 79, stole $155 million from several charities that he oversaw while he was president. He could face life in prison if convicted. Some reports had said Suharto had stolen billions of dollars, but officials in the attorney general's office said the charge had been limited intentionally to ensure a conviction. Suharto has denied any wrongdoing. He was placed under house arrest earlier this year for not cooperating with investigators. Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid has said he would pardon Suharto if he returned the money.

Prosecutors visit home

Suharto was formally charged after prosecutors and officials from Attorney General Marzuki Darusman's office met with the ailing former leader in his home. Darusman's staff turned the file over to prosecutors at that time. Hundreds of police officers had been deployed near Suharto's home as a precaution against possible protests by students, who want him tried immediately -- not only for corruption but also for human rights violations. "There will be a team of prosecutors, and they will make the indictment, which will be read in the court," Yahya said.

The formal letter outlining the charge will be handed to Suharto during his first court appearance, which Darusman expects to take place before August 10. Indonesia's court system requires the attorney general's office to hand over to prosecutors the evidence and findings of its investigation into Suharto's dealings when the case reaches the prosecution stage.

Defense says Suharto ill

The attorney general's office is also required to take witnesses and suspects to the prosecutors. However, due to Suharto's poor health, they made an exception and met at his house. Prosecutors will deliver that dossier to District Court, which will assign a judge to the case. The judge will then set a trial date. However, Suharto's lawyers have argued a series of recent strokes have left the former president too sick to either appear in court or to cope with a lengthy trial. "Suharto has brain damage," said chief defense counsel Juan Felix Tampubolon.

However, Darusman said on Monday that medical tests showed Suharto was fit to stand trial, and he dismissed defense lawyers' claims that Suharto had suffered brain damage. Meanwhile, Denny Kailimang, one of Suharto's lawyers, said the court, not Darusman, would have to decide if the former president was capable of standing trial.



Posted in Corruption @ 03 August 2000 16:50 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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