Former Indonesian dictator Suharto again in 'very critical condition'

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The Independent Online

Family members said they would let doctors decide if former dictator Suharto should be removed from life support after almost all of his organ functions failed. Physicians described his condition as "very critical."

The 86-year-old had serious problems with his heart, lungs and kidneys and remained hooked to a ventilator, said Marjo Subiandono, the chief presidential doctor.

Suharto, whose 32-year regime was widely regarded as one of the 20th century's most brutal and corrupt, was rushed to the hospital on 4 January. Family members who have since camped out near his room were preparing themselves for the worst after learning Friday that he had suffered multiple organ failure.

Subiandono said doctors spoke with them twice Sunday to explain that "he only had a 50-50 chance of survival" and that the situation could quickly deteriorate. He said they left it to the medical team to decide what to do, including the possibility of removing him from life support.

The retired five-star general was ousted in 1998 amid massive student protests and nationwide riots, opening the way for democracy in this predominantly Muslim nation of 235 million people. He withdrew from public life, venturing from his comfortable villa on a leafy lane in the capital, Jakarta, only to attend family functions or for medical emergencies.

A series of strokes in recent years have left Suharto with permanent brain damage and impaired speech — keeping him from facing trial. He has been accused of overseeing a purge of more than half a million leftist opponents soon after seizing power in a 1965 coup. Hundreds of thousands more were killed or imprisoned in the decades that followed — crimes for which no one has ever been punished.

Transparency International says Suharto and his family also amassed billions of dollars in state funds, an allegation he has denied. The government last week offered Suharto's family an out-of-court settlement for a pending US$1.5 billion (€1 billion) civil corruption suit.

But lawyers for the family rejected the proposal, denying graft and saying it was inappropriate to raise the issue while Suharto was in critical condition.

A steady stream of high-profile visitors have come to see Suharto in recent days. They included President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Cabinet ministers and ruling party leaders — a sign of his continuing influence over the ruling elite. Many also held positions in the government during Suharto's reign.

"As a human being, like other leaders, certainly he made mistakes and committed wrongdoing, but it would not hurt us to thank him and appreciate his achievements and services to the country," Yudhoyono said Saturday.



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