Tue, 01 Aug 2000

Soeharto fit for trial: Marzuki

JAKARTA (JP): Former president Soeharto is fit to face trial over charges of corruption, Attorney General Marzuki Darusman said on Monday.

"A comprehensive medical examination on Pak Harto one month ago has again proved that he is fit to undergo questioning," Marzuki told reporters after meeting President Abdurrahman Wahid at Bina Graha presidential office.

"So this should serve as further support for past medical examinations (on Soeharto). The Attorney General's Office has questioned Soeharto for months without obstacles in respect to his health," he added.

Soeharto's lawyers have repeatedly claimed that their client is too ill to face trial because he cannot remember past events and is suffering from brain damage.

Marzuki announced last week that prosecutors were ready to file charges against the former ruler for allegedly misusing some Rp 1.4 trillion and US$416 million of state funds donated to his seven tax-free charitable foundations.

Soeharto's lawyers accused the government, however, of timing the announcement to deflect attention from Abdurrahman's appearance before the People's Consultative Assembly next week, where he is expected to face a tough time as he accounts for his stormy 10 months in power.

Marzuki said on Monday that the date of the trial would be decided by the court. He had said previously that the trial would begin before Aug. 10.

Prosecutors said last week they would file the charges with the South Jakarta District Court.

Later in the day, spokesman for the Attorney General's Office Yushar Yahya said that a thorough study of the 3,500 page dossier, which is now in the hands of the Jakarta prosecutor's office, had already been completed.

He said the next step would be to hand over the suspect and evidence to the prosecutor's office.

One of the investigators, Suriansjah, told reporters on Monday that the handover would be carried out later this week.

Marzuki's decision not to prosecute Soeharto as a former president but rather as the chairman of the foundations has been greeted with skepticism, with observers saying that the indictment is not tough enough.

But Marzuki said he had concentrated on the foundations because he wanted a watertight case against Soeharto, who stepped down as president in 1998 amid mass protests.

Abdurrahman has repeatedly said he would pardon Soeharto if he was found guilty. But the President has insisted a trial must go ahead.

Despite allegations that Soeharto is sitting on a fortune worth billions of dollars, stashed overseas, the government has not yet been able to find any evidence to prove the offshore accounts exist.

Protesting students have demanded Soeharto be charged with power abuse and human rights violations rampant during his 32 years of rule.(bby/byg/prb)