Subject: Activists Mark Suharto Downfall Anniversary With Protests

Activists Mark Suharto Downfall Anniversary With Protests

JAKARTA, May 21 (AP)--Thousands of demonstrators Friday marked the sixth anniversary of former dictator Suharto's downfall, demanding his prosecution and the removal of Indonesia's powerful military from politics.

Chanting "Put Suharto On Trial" and "Reject Militarism," about 200 protesters faced 100 police officers in riot gear at Suharto's house in the capital, Jakarta. Some protesters carried a black casket printed with the words "Democracy Has Died."

"We are here to demand a trial for Suharto," said Mustar Bonaventura, spokesman for the Alliance of May Movement, which organized the protest. "It has been six years since democratic reforms started, and there is no legal action against Suharto. He is still free."

Thousands more held demonstrations outside Parliament in Jakarta and in the cities of Surabaya, Medan and Bandung.

Suharto was forced to step down on May 21, 1998, after months of student protests. During his 32-year reign, he muzzled the media, rigged elections and amassed more than US$15 billion through corruption.

The government has repeatedly attempted to bring the 82-year-old Suharto up on corruption charges. But Suharto's lawyers have successfully argued that he's too sick to stand trial.

His health condition, however, hasn't stopped him from voting in the April legislative elections and playing a quiet, behind-the-scenes role in the presidential campaign. He supported his daughter's brief run for the presidency and is widely believe to be backing retired General Wiranto, the nominee of his former Golkar Party, in the July 5 election.

Student activists have seized on this and increasingly directed their protests at presidential candidates Wiranto and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono - both former generals who served under Suharto. They argue that the generals' participation in the elections portends a return to a military dictatorship.

"If the military returns to power, that will mean the death of democracy," Bonaventura said.

Suharto and Wiranto, like many Indonesians, use single names.

-Edited by Shishir Mudgil

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