Suharto retrial appeal rejected

JAKARTA, Reuters

Indonesia’s Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal by prosecutors to retry former President Suharto for corruption, dashing efforts to account for decades of greed under the one-time autocrat.

A lower court dropped Suharto’s original graft case last September on the grounds the 79-year-old former general was too ill, triggering widespread protests and clashes in Jakarta.

“The Supreme Court has declared that an appeal by the prosecutors cannot be accepted,” Sayfuddin Kartasasmita, head of general crime at the Supreme Court, told reporters.

The ruling also lifted an order confining Suharto to Jakarta.

Kartasasmita said Suharto, who has suffered three strokes, could only be put in the dock if he recovered. It was unclear if prosecutors would ask the Supreme Court to review its own decision, a move permitted under Indonesian law.

The official said the court had also ordered the government to take care of Suharto and cover his medical costs so that authorities would immediately know if he was fit for court.

“Suharto will be under government-supervised medical care and all the expenses will be borne by the government until he recovers,” Kartasasmita said.

During the 2000 trial, Suharto was charged with embezzling US$550 million from charities he controlled. But the case only lasted a few sessions and was confined to arguments over Suharto’s health. He never appeared in court.

The decision to drop the case sparked dismay that Indonesians would never see an accounting of his rule, during which the country became a byword for corruption.

Suharto and his family are accused of corruptly amassing as much as US$45 billion during his 32 year, army-backed rule.

Suharto’s lawyer, Juan Felix Tampubolon, said the self-professed “Father of Development” would never face court.

“There is an implicit acknowledgement that Suharto is sick and it is based from the doctor’s report which says that he suffers from permanent brain damage so logically there will never be a trial,” he told Reuters on Monday.

Suharto’s rule, which ended amid chaos in May 1998, ushered in decades of rapid economic growth but was marred with widespread rights abuses and corruption.

Some government officials had suggested Suharto’s case be dropped because of fears that attempts to force him into court could ignite more violence across a country struggling to shake off chronic instability.

Meanwhile, efforts to jail Suharto’s youngest son remain the country’s leading soap opera.

Hutomo “Tommy” Mandala Putra was sentenced to 18 months in jail for graft last September, but after seeking a presidential pardon, which was rejected, has been on the run since early November.