Suharto fears the `Pinochet effect'

SUHARTO, THE ailing former president of Indonesia, will not travel abroad for treatment, according to diplomats, because he fears being held for crimes against humanity after the arrest of his Chilean counterpart, Augusto Pinochet.

Suharto suffered a minor stroke last month and was readmitted to hospital at the weekend after intestinal bleeding. But rather than travelling to Germany, where he received treatment three years ago, the 78-year-old former general has been advised by his legal team that leaving Indonesia would be too risky.

"This is a real concern for his lawyers," one Western diplomat said last night. Human rights groups in Britain and Portugal have been pressing for charges to be brought against Suharto. They hold him responsible for many deaths among the hundreds of thousands of victims of his rise to power and his 32-year rule. As many as half a million people are believed to have been killed during an anti- communist witch-hunt in 1965 and 1966. Suharto rose to power in a creeping coup during this period. Another 200,000 were murdered or died of illness or starvation after the brutal 1975 invasion of East Timor, carried out on his orders.

Throughout his presidency opponents were imprisoned, often without trial, and tortured. Some disappeared.

In 1996, Suharto had treatment for high blood pressure and kidney problems at a private clinic in Germany. According to a Western diplomat quoted by Associated Press, his lawyers sought assurances from the German government that he would not be arrested if he made a return visit this year, but these were not given. "The courts are not bound by the government, and you can't give political guarantees about the legal process," said a diplomat from another Western embassy last night.

General Pinochet, who is facing extradition to Spain after being arrested in Britain while having back treatment last year, is said to have admired and been influenced by Suharto. A covert operation against the Chilean regime that General Pinochet overthrew in 1973 was codenamed Jakarta in tribute to Suharto's anti-communist purge.

Chilean accounts suggest that General Pinochet's tally of 3,197 killed or disappeared falls well short of Suharto's, although no warrants are known to have been issued against the Indonesian general.

The hospital treating Suharto said yesterday that his intestinal bleeding had stopped and that he would be able to return home in less than a week.n A Vienna City Green Party MP has called on the Austrian government to arrest one of President Saddam Hussein's most important deputies, currently being treated in one of the city's private clinics, writes Hannah Cleaver.

Peter Pilz says he has given the Government enough evidence to arrest Izzat Ibrahim Al Douri on the same legal grounds as the British government arrested General Pinochet. Mr Al Douri is deputy chairman of the Iraqi Revolutionary Council, making him one of the four most important people in the regime after Saddam himself.

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