Tommy Suharto admits guilt and pleads for mercy

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The Independent Online

The youngest son of the fallen Indonesian dictator Suharto gave up the struggle to maintain his innocence yesterday and appealed to the country's president, Abdurrahman Wahid, to spare him from prison.

The youngest son of the fallen Indonesian dictator Suharto gave up the struggle to maintain his innocence yesterday and appealed to the country's president, Abdurrahman Wahid, to spare him from prison.

Hutomo Mandala Putra, better known as Tommy, finally admitted his part in an $11m (£7.5m) corruption scandal for which he was sentenced last week to 18 months' jail.

His lawyer, Bob Nasution, said: "Our client has agreed he is guilty and decided to ask for a pardon from the president through the South Jakarta Court as well as a request to postpone the implementation of the sentence."

Tommy is the first member of Suharto's extended family to admit wrongdoing during the 32 years in which the dictator ruled Indonesia, a period when $60bn was said to have been looted from state funds.

Charges against Suharto himself were dropped last Thursday after a Jakarta court ruled he was too ill to stand trial.

The announcement provoked furious demonstrations, and 50 people were injured in street battles between police and students. Mysterious explosions, including a bomb at the Jakarta Stock Exchange that killed 10 people last month, have been blamed on supporters of the Suhartos who are believed to be sowing terror to intimidate the courts and create confusion.

Early on in the corruption proceedings, President Wahid said he would pardon the 79-year-old Suharto, who still enjoys grudging respect from many Indonesians for his record as an anti-colonial independence fighter and for the economic growth that came during his presidency.

But the same cannot be said for 37-year-old Tommy, whose love of racing cars and expensive lifestyle were funded by a series of lucrative business franchises handed to him by his father.

The charges on which he was convicted last week relate to a property deal with the government logistics agency through which Tommy enriched himself at the expense of the state.

On Monday, he refused to obey a summons to appear at the Attorney General's office but, after his business partner admitted the crime and appealed for clemency, he appears to have been left with little choice.

Mr Wahid has expressed his disgust with the recent legal developments, although in terms that have paid scant regard to the norms of legal process. Last month he ordered that Tommy Suharto be arrested after he failed to surrender to a court. When the arrest was not made, he sacked his chief of police.

After the former dictator was discharged on the basis of ill-health, the President said he should face another hearing and accused the judges who had freed him of taking bribes.

If Mr Wahid rejects Tommy's plea for clemency he will be sent to Cipinang Prison in Jakarta, the jail where hundreds of his father's opponents served their sentences as political prisoners, including the East Timorese guerrilla leader, Xanana Gusmao.

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