Mon, 11 Sep 2000

Doctor explains Soeharto's health test

JAKARTA (JP): A senior member of the private medical team of former president Soeharto, Teguh A.S. Ranakusuma, insisted that his team of doctors had never recommended that Soeharto not appear at his trial on corruption charges.

"Our medical reports have never stated that the former president would not be able to face a trial due to his illnesses," Teguh told reporters during a heart and brain symposium here on Saturday.

"Our recommendations (in the reports) have never indicated that Soeharto could not be tried. We (doctors) could never think of stopping a court from getting a defendant to appear before it," he said on private television station ANteve in its evening news report on Sunday.

The leader of the 23-member private team of doctors, Teguh said that the doctors' medical opinion should not have been regarded by the trial's panel of judges at the Aug. 31 preliminary hearing as a "final judgment, stating whether the defendant could appear in court or not."

Teguh added that at the preliminary hearing, he felt it was made to look as if the doctors had suggested that Soeharto could not attend the trial.

"As if it was based on our decision, that the defendant could not attend the trial. It's not that way," Teguh insisted.

Soeharto is alleged to have misused some Rp 1.4 trillion and some US$416 million of public funds which were under the control of the seven charitable foundations he ran, by channeling them to the businesses of his family and friends.

The judges have slated Thursday this week for a hearing to listen to the explanations from both of the medical teams assessing Soeharto's health.

Under Indonesian law a defendant has to be present at the opening session of his trial to hear the reading out of the indictment, and can only be represented by lawyers in later sessions.

Contacted on Sunday evening, Soeharto's defense lawyer Juan Felix Tampubolon said he was shocked by the doctor's statement, saying that his remarks were "unbelievable".

"He has always supported us. This man (Teguh) hardly ever gives interviews. How could he say such a thing in this interview?" Juan told The Jakarta Post.

Medical reports on Soeharto had earlier convinced judges of the South Jakarta District Court to adjourn his trial. His lawyers had repeatedly claimed that their client was unfit to attend the preliminary hearing.

Lawyer Juan said his 79-year-old client, who has suffered three strokes in the past, had a deplorable bill of health.

"He could suffer a fourth stroke, due to a variety of reasons including advanced age, hypertension, heart problems, kidney failure, kidney stones, diabetes, and other illnesses," Juan told the hearing, quoting official medical report No. 03/TDHMS/VIII/2000 which was signed by Teguh.

No problem

Separately on Saturday, Attorney General Marzuki Darusman said that there should not be a problem for the ailing former president, Soeharto, to attend the trial of his alleged corruption as he is fit enough to appear in the "courtroom".

"His presence in court will not do any harm to him as he can just sit, listen and shake or nod his head when responding to the panel of judges' questions," Marzuki said, as quoted by Antara, while addressing the inauguration ceremony of a new building at Surabaya University's School of Law in Surabaya.

He said the ongoing polemic over the necessity to hold a trial in absentia for Soeharto showed that the public was concerned about the matter.

"However, the decision to continue the trial in Soeharto's absence will rest on the panel of judges of the South Jakarta District Court.

Following Soeharto's failure to attend the initial trial, many people have suggested he be tried in absentia to ensure the continuity of the trial of the alleged graft, which also has the potential to implicate the former ruler's family and cronies, even his absence.

Commenting on Soeharto's current intelligence quotient, which is below normal, which can be used as an excuse to avoid or annul the trial, Marzuki said it would not be considered an obstacle for the trial.

He, however, admitted that the legal solution would not be sufficient to meet the people's aspirations with regard to Soeharto's alleged graft. "A political solution is also needed."

"If the court finds him guilty, the government can give him (Soeharto) an amnesty if he is willing to return the state's money which he had allegedly amassed during his 32-year reign," he added. (ylt/bby)