Thu, 30 Mar 2000

Marzuki threatens to force Soeharto over summons

JAKARTA (JP): Attorney General Marzuki Darusman threatened on Wednesday to force former president Soeharto to answer a long- standing summons in connection with an official corruption investigation if he fails to appear again on Thursday.

Marzuki said his office had the legal authority to subpoena Soeharto if he ignored three consecutive summonses from the office.

Soeharto has been ordered to appear at Marzuki's office on Thursday, after Marzuki concluded last week that the former ruler was healthy enough on the basis of a report by independent doctors assigned by the government.

However, on the eve of the highly publicized investigation, Soeharto's lawyers made public the report of an independent medical team, which they claimed corroborated their argument that their client was not fit to answer the summons.

Marzuki waived dismissively when asked to comment on the latest maneuver by the lawyers, saying he did not want to be drawn into another polemic about Soeharto's health.

"We will take the necessary measures at the appropriate time," Marzuki said before attending the weekly Cabinet meeting at Bina Graha presidential office.

Soeharto's lawyers wrote to Marzuki on Wednesday reiterating their position that Soeharto could not make it on Thursday.

They underlined the report by the five doctors at the state Cipto Mangunkusumo General Hospital that Soeharto's speech impediment rendered him inadequate to answer questions.

"Our client is not in any position to answer questions. We do not see any benefit from a legal point of view for him to be questioned and to answer prosecutors' questions," according to the letter, also distributed to the media.

The independent medical report almost tallied with the one produced by Soeharto's private doctors, lawyer Juan Felix Tampubolon said.

"Let's just make these medical reports public in the name of transparency," Tampubolon told journalists.

The independent medical team report, according to the copy distributed by Tampubolon, suggested that the memory of the 78- year old Soeharto had deteriorated significantly.

"In order to express his thoughts in long or complex sentences, he needs an assistant to choose the precise and proper words. His speech impediment cannot guarantee that the spoken words will be identical to what he intends to say," according to the report.

The doctors also concluded that Soeharto was vulnerable to high blood pressure when faced with certain pressures.

"Psychologically, he can understand and express simple ideas. For complex ideas, however, he has to be assisted and his speech capacity is indefinite," the doctors said.

The report by Soeharto's private doctors said the former president suffered from mixed non-fluent aphasia. He has problems with verbal expression, verbal repetition, verbal understanding and verbal communication.

Soeharto suffered a stroke last year that is believed to have affected his speech.

Although he has made several public appearances, including meeting with President Abdurrahman on three occasions this past month, he has refrained from talking to the public.

His last joint appearance with President Abdurrahman was on Monday when the latter attended the wedding ceremony of one of Soeharto's granddaughters. (01/dja/prb)