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Speedy release of Suharto's son raises questions JAKARTA - In 2002, the superrich son of former dictator Suharto was sentenced to 15 years in prison in the murder of judge, a verdict hailed as a watershed in Indonesia's battle to create a legal system capable of punishing the powerful. But this month - just four years later - Tommy Suharto is due for release on parole.

The speed in which Tommy has served his sentence has left many people questioning whether anything has changed in the legal system since pro-democracy riots forced his father to step down in 1998 after 32 years of corrupt and brutal rule. "This is all very sudden,'' said Marzuki Darusman, who was attorney general when Tommy, whose real name is Hutomo Mandala Putra, was sentenced. "It will make people start thinking what has really happened here.''

Tommy - like all of Suharto's children - amassed a vast fortune and lived a lavish lifestyle during the 1980s and early '90s. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison in July 2002 for hiring two hit men to murder Supreme Court Justice Syafiuddin Kartasasmita, who had convicted him earlier in a multimillion-dollar land deal. But the sentence was later cut to 10 years on appeal and, like other prisoners, Tommy, 43, has benefited from regular sentence remissions of between 6 months and one year for good behavior.

Under Indonesian law, inmates are eligible for parole after serving two-thirds of their sentence, and the Justice Ministry said Tommy would be released in September, though no date has been set. "He has fulfilled all the conditions of early parole, including the fact that we judge him to have been well behaved,'' said Wibowo Joko Harjono, the head of Cipinang's prison maximum security division.

Critics allege that Tommy bribed judges and prison and government officials to get out - all common practices in the country's legal system - but offer up no evidence to back up the claims. Tommy's lawyer refused comment, saying she was under specific instructions from Tommy not to discuss the release. For many, Tommy symbolized the excesses of the regime of his father, who in 2000 escaped corruption charges after judges ruled a series of strokes had left him too sick to stand trial.

During his time in jail, much of it spent on a prison island off Java's southern coast, Tommy often flew to Jakarta by private helicopter for lengthy treatment in a luxury hospital for an eye tumor. Muhammad Asrun, from Judicial Watch, a private organization monitoring legal reform efforts, said Tommy's impending release was a "scandal,'' adding that bribery and graft remained rampant at all levels of the judiciary. "There has been no change, if anything these days it (corruption) is even worse,'' he said. "The only difference now is that people are free to talk about it in the press.''



Posted in General @ 05 September 2006 07:40 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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