Sat, 12 Feb 2000

Attorney General insists on summoning Soeharto

JAKARTA (JP): The Attorney General's office is insisting Soeharto answer a summons for questioning on Monday despite being informed by lawyers on Friday that the former president is physically and mentally unfit.

"We have been watching Pak Harto closely and he has so far been able to travel, so we are of the opinion that he is in normal condition and therefore able to be questioned," Attorney General Marzuki Darusman told The Jakarta Post here on Friday.

"Fulfill the summons first and then if there is a problem, it will be taken care of during the process," he added.

Lawyers representing the 78-year-old former president officially informed the Attorney General's office Friday morning that their client was too sick to answer the summons.

"Pak Harto's poor physical condition won't enable him to go through the questioning process," lawyer Juan Felix Tampubolon told journalists after a one-hour meeting with Chairul Imam, director of corruption affairs at the Attorney General's office.

"I will be present on Monday on his behalf," Tampubolon said.

But a spokesman for the Attorney General's office, Soehandoyo, told reporters that the "investigation should not be halted just because the suspect is sick."

He added that the Attorney General's office would cross-check and coordinate with Soeharto's medical team to look into his illness.

"Soeharto's lawyers will submit a bill of health from the doctors ... and after we have received the letters, alternative steps will be taken," he said.

The statement came a day after the attorney general's office announced that Soeharto was summoned as a suspect of alleged corruption during his 32 years in power.

Officials said that the summons was issued as new evidence had been discovered to warrant the resumption of the investigation of the former ruler.

New evidence pointed to "a misuse of power and authority" in issuing government regulations and presidential decrees to amass funds for foundations linked to Soeharto, his family and associates.

Separately, human rights lawyer Abdul Hakim Garuda Nusantara said there must be a "second opinion" on Soeharto's health and called on the Attorney General's office "not to just believe" the report from the former ruler's medical team.

"He was able to travel to Surakarta, so why all of a sudden can't he now appear at the Attorney General's office," Abdul Hakim said referring to Soeharto's visit to the grave of his late wife Tien in Central Java in November.

A source also told the Post on Thursday that Soeharto even visited a golf course in West Java.

Tampubolon, when interviewed by the Post by telephone, would not confirm Thursday's walkabout but admitted that Soeharto travels regularly to Surakarta and to his ranch in Tapos, West Java for his own "therapy".

"Doctors recommend Pak Harto to walk a lot and to travel to places he likes," Tampubolon said.

Soeharto, who has repeatedly denied allegations that he amassed a fortune during his reign, was twice hospitalized last year, once for a stroke and once for intestinal bleeding.

In Yogyakarta, People's Consultative Assembly Speaker Amien Rais said that bringing Soeharto to court would be an important step toward restoring the people's confidence (in the government).

"By taking former President Soeharto to court, the people will see that there is equal treatment before the law; that there are no exceptions, not even for a former president," he said on Friday. (01/byg/emf)