Prosecutor quizzes Suharto

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AFTER MONTHS of public pressure and student protests, the Indonesian government has finally called in former president Suharto for questioning over allegations that he enriched himself and his family during 32 years in power.

Suharto emerged on to the steps of the public prosecutor's office yesterday to tell a crowd: "As a good citizen, I came because no one is above the law." The former general, ousted from power in May, was questioned for more than three hours.

Suharto, 77, had to answer questions about massive tax perks given to a car manufacturing company run by his son, Bambang Trihatmojo. The questions also touched on the possible misuse of hundreds of millions of charity dollars, and on land purchases made by Suharto and his family.

Suharto says he has only the money he saved from his presidential salary. Investigators have found about pounds 1.8m in local bank accounts, as well as large tracts of land in his name, and his six children are shareholders in many companies.Critics estimate his wealth at $4bn.

The prosecutor must decide if there is enough evidence to charge Suharto. The issue is as much political as legal; one of Suharto's advisers hinted last week that the former president could dish the dirt on his proteges in the government, who include his successor, B J Habibie. "If Suharto does go to court, it could drag down the government," said one of Suharto's advisers, Yohanes Yacob.