Subject: JP update: Soeharto in the Dock? AG Looks to Reopen Case

The Jakarta Post Tuesday, April 25, 2006

AG ready to reopen Soeharto case

Tony Hotland, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The on-again, off-again legal saga of former president Soeharto may be back on track, although Attorney General Abdul Rahman Saleh kept mum Monday on "alternative" approaches to bringing the octogenarian to court.

His comments followed a statement Friday that Soeharto should be reexamined to determine if he was fit to stand trial, although the same team of doctors who declared him unfit due to brain damage in 2002 would be recruited once again.

"We cannot leave the situation idle. I already consulted the Supreme Court, and my view is that it's much better if we carry out another examination," he said on the sidelines of a gathering on the government's commitment to providing legal assistance to the poor.

"Who knows if his condition has changed."

He said if the team recorded the same diagnosis, his office would draw up alternative ways for the legal processing of Soeharto, who critics accuse of committing massive corruption and gross human rights abuses during his 32-year authoritarian regime.

A move to put Soeharto in the dock would disprove the assumption that his physical ailments are a stalling tactic or that he is above the law, especially because many current powerholders owe their careers to his political patronage. Four successive administrations have failed to carry through with promises to try Soeharto, who turns 85 in June.

In 2002, the Supreme Court put on hold the trial of Soeharto, after a 20-strong team of physicians declared he suffered "permanent" brain damage from a series of strokes.

However, he has often been spotted out in public or received guests in his home, including Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew earlier this year. He also has traveled out of town to visit his visit his imprisoned son Hutomo Mandala Putra, seemingly without any major physical or mental constraints.

In his most recent public outing last Saturday, a robust-looking Soeharto attended the wedding reception of one of his granddaughters.

Soeharto's lawyers have derided the decision to reexamine their client, particularly because it would be conducted by the same medical team, and cite the previous diagnosis of permanent brain damage.

Abdul Rahman, who said the decision to reexamine Soeharto was his own initiative and did not come from the President, only described the alternative approaches as time-consuming.

"We'll think of something but it would take a long time. We'll see what the team has to say first," he said.

The administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has set three priorities in tackling corruption, one of which is resolving past major cases, and has so far brought a number of former state officials to jail.

Some have accused it of being discriminatory, with most of those tried former political opponents of the administration.

Soeharto built and made the Golkar Party his political machine during his regime. The party was a constant election winner by a landslide, and still managed to come second in the 1999 election at a time when public wrath over the party was thought to be immense.

The party recovered and won back the 2004 election to occupy the most seats in the House of Representatives. It currently is led by Vice President Jusuf Kalla and declares itself a supporter of the current administration.

----------------------- Joyo Indonesia News Service 

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