'Unfit' Suharto escapes corruption trial

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The Independent Online

An Indonesian court abandoned the corruption trial of ex-dictator Suharto on Thursday after doctors found that he is medically and mentally unfit to face charges. "The case is closed," said presiding Judge Lalu Mariyun. The five-judge panel decided to dismiss all charges against former president Suharto, who was charged with stealing almost $600 million in public funds. Earlier, a 23-member team of court-appointed doctors said Suharto, 79, had a wide range of ailments following three strokes in recent years that left him mentally incapable of standing the rigors of a long trial. Abandonment of the unprecedented case can be regarded as a major setback to efforts by Indonesia's year-old reformist government to end corruption and roll back Suharto's legacy of authoritarianism. Prosecutors immediately announced that they would appeal. The court also ruled that Suharto's house arrest should be lifted immediately. Suharto was ousted from office in 1998 amid pro-democracy protests after 32 years in p

An Indonesian court abandoned the corruption trial of ex-dictator Suharto on Thursday after doctors found that he is medically and mentally unfit to face charges. "The case is closed," said presiding Judge Lalu Mariyun. The five-judge panel decided to dismiss all charges against former president Suharto, who was charged with stealing almost $600 million in public funds. Earlier, a 23-member team of court-appointed doctors said Suharto, 79, had a wide range of ailments following three strokes in recent years that left him mentally incapable of standing the rigors of a long trial. Abandonment of the unprecedented case can be regarded as a major setback to efforts by Indonesia's year-old reformist government to end corruption and roll back Suharto's legacy of authoritarianism. Prosecutors immediately announced that they would appeal. The court also ruled that Suharto's house arrest should be lifted immediately. Suharto was ousted from office in 1998 amid pro-democracy protests after 32 years in power. Thursday's decision is likely trigger a new wave of protests. While the hearing was going ahead, anti-Suharto demonstrators threw stones and at least one firebomb at police, who responded with tear gas and warning shots. Six protesters were arrested. "The doctors are all lying," said Zul Sikri, a demonstrator. "Suharto must go to jail and we will keep protesting until that happens." On 14 September, judges ordered Suharto to undergo an independent checkup, after his private doctors said he was mentally incapacitated by a string of strokes. Government doctors maintained that he was perfectly capable of comprehending the case against him. Thursday's session came as Suharto's youngest son, Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra, waited for arrest after his conviction on corruption charges and an 18-month prison term. "I have coordinated with the Jakarta district attorney's office and the warden of Cipinang prison to prepare everything so that Tommy can be brought to jail in the next one or two days," Justice Minister Yusril Mahendra said Thursday. A surprise ruling by the Supreme Court also ordered Tommy to pay the equivalent of $3.5 million in fines. His lawyers said they planned an appeal of the decision, which reversed a lower court acquittal in October. Tommy, 37, was charged in a multimillion-dollar property deal with the state's main food supply agency in 1997. Prosecutors said it enriched him but cost the government $10.8 million.

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