Tue, 08 Aug 2000

Prosecutors in Soeharto trial to be protected

JAKARTA (JP): With the South Jakarta District Court yet to decide on a venue for the trial of former president Soeharto, the Attorney General's Office took significant measures on Monday for the safety of prosecutors in the alleged corruption case.

According to Attorney General Marzuki Darusman, his office had coordinated the security matter with police and military officers to ensure the safety of both the prosecutors and the trial as well.

"These measures are only precautionary steps to ensure that the trial will go on smoothly and safely," he told journalists at his office without elaborating further on what kind of security measures would be taken to protect the prosecutors.

He only said that such consideration was "normal", adding that the decision had nothing to do with threats from any parties, including from the defendant, who ruled the country for 32 years.

Marzuki also said that security matters during the trial had been put under serious consideration so its timing and location would not coincide with or be adjacent to the ongoing Annual Season of the People's Consultative Assembly, which is to last until Friday next week.

He admitted that the government was still considering the proper venue for Soeharto's trial, but declined to reveal alternatives to the South Jakarta District Court on Jl. Ampera Raya in the busy Kemang area.

"But it's the court's authorization to set the date and the place for the trial," Marzuki added.

Soeharto, after a lengthy investigation and questioning by officials of the Attorney General's Office, has been charged under the Law No. 3/1971 on corruption.

The former strongman is accused of having misused Rp 1.4 trillion and US$416 million of state funds, allegedly amassed through his seven tax-free charitable foundations.

According to Law No. 3/1971, Soeharto could be sentenced to life imprisonment or put behind bars for a maximum of 20 years and a Rp 30 million fine. He could also have to recover the alleged losses to the state, as stipulated in the article 34 of the corruption law.

The government is to file the case at the South Jakarta court on Tuesday, two days before the government's deadline of Aug. 10.

Separately, deputy head of the South Jakarta District Court Soemarno said on Tuesday he thought the courtroom at the district court was too small to accommodate an expected large crowd of attendees.

He suggested that the hearing of the former president be held at a larger buildings, such as the Dharma Wanita building in Kuningan or the Jakarta Convention Center in Senayan.

"Both places are located in the South Jakarta district," he told journalists.

Many doubted that the government would put the former president on trial, considering the latter's loyal benefactors, who still retain power in the current administration.

Soeharto's lawyers have repeatedly claimed that their client was not in a position to face any legal process because of brain damage they say he is suffering from and which they maintain has destroyed most of his memory and capability to comprehend a complex situation or sentence.

President Abdurrahman Wahid has stated that he will pardon Soeharto if he is found guilty. (bby)