Thu, 05 Oct 2000

No pardon for Tommy: President

JAKARTA (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid said that he would not pardon former president Soeharto's youngest son Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra, who has been sentenced to an 18-month jail term for corruption.

Asked by journalists on Wednesday upon his arrival at Halim Perdanakusuma airport from a 10-day overseas trip if he would pardon Tommy, Abdurrahman said: "No, no, no".

The President, who last month wanted police to arrest Tommy for his alleged role in a series of bomb blasts in the capital, said he had discussed the possibility of clemency with Attorney General Marzuki Darusman on Tuesday.

"I got a call from the Attorney General when I was in Vancouver asking me if we would give clemency ... and I said no," Abdurrahman said.

He added that whether Tommy would be immediately sent to jail or not would be "up to the Attorney General".

Tommy is free at the moment even though the Supreme Court overturned last week an earlier decision and convicted him together with his business partner Ricardo Gelael for a Rp 95 billion (US$11 million) land swindle.

On Tuesday, Tommy formally filed an appeal for a presidential pardon.

When asked whether the President would like to see Tommy in jail, Abdurrahman simply said: "It's not a matter of like or not ... it's about law".

Later in the day, State Secretary Djohan Effendy said that so far there had been no move towards issuing a presidential decree on the denial of the appeal.

The process of issuing the decree, he explained, could be short or could take some time.

Attorney General Marzuki said later that his office had to wait for a formal written rejection from the President before they could lock Tommy in prison.

Antasari Azhar, chief of the South Jakarta Prosecutor's office which is responsible for implementation of the sentence, shared the same view.

"The (President's) statement (alone) cannot serve as a basis to implement the sentence," Antasari was quoted by Antara as saying.

One of Tommy's lawyers said on Wednesday that he had not yet heard of Abdurrahman's rejection and that the defense team would not take any action until a presidential decree is issued.

"I haven't heard of the rejection. In any case, we will wait for the presidential decree to be issued on the matter. We will not risk taking any unnecessary step," Bob R.E. Nasution told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

Another of Tommy's lawyers, Erman Umar, said he had predicted that Abdurrahman would reject his client's request for pardon.

"We have been pessimistic from the beginning that Gus Dur would grant pardon to our client as he has been eagerly seeking to arrest Tommy," Erman said.

"We have planned to appeal for a review of the verdict. But that would be our last measure," he added.

Last month police failed to fulfill Abdurrahman's order to detain Tommy in connection with the recent bombings in the city, saying that they had insufficient evidence to do so.

The land swindle centered on land leased from the National Logistic Agency (Bulog) by a supermarket chain owned partly by Tommy in an agreement prosecutors alleged caused losses to the country.

The 1950 law on presidential pardon stipulates that an appeal for pardon must go through a series of phases before reaching the president and that the process could take at least one month.

The law also says that the president could consider inputs from the Supreme Court, attorney general and justice minister before making a decision.

On Tuesday, Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra said that the President's decision whether to grant pardon or not could be made without considering the Supreme Court's recommendation.

Later on Wednesday, human rights activist Teten Masduki praised the President's decision to reject Tommy's appeal for pardon but warned against the use of Tommy's case as a "trade- off" for the dismissal of the Soeharto trial.

The South Jakarta district court decided last week to drop all charges against former president Soeharto after an independent medical team of 24 doctors declared that he was physically and mentally too ill to stand trial.(byg/bby/edt/ylt)