Sun, 18 Jun 2000

Soeharto undergoes a brain scan

JAKARTA (JP): Former president Soeharto underwent a brain scan on Saturday morning to check whether the damage from several strokes has affected his memory and ability to face an ongoing investigation into his alleged corruption during 32 years of rule.

Accompanied by his lawyer, Mohammad Assegaf, and eldest daughter Siti Hardijanti Rukmana, Soeharto was taken to the state Harapan Kita Hospital for the one-hour medical check early Saturday. The ailing former ruler, who just turned 79, walked unaided and appeared in good spirits.

Head of the independent medical team carrying out the brain test, Supardi Sudibyo, said the examination was aimed at observing the circulation of blood vessels that feed brain cells.

"By examining the blood pressure shown in the photographic brainspect, we can assess the brain's memory function," Supardi told journalists waiting outside the radiology chamber of the hospital, which formerly controlled by one of Soeharto's foundations.

A diagnostic technique called scintigraphy was applied on Soeharto's scalp to obtain a two-dimensional picture of blood circulation in his brain using radioisotopes.

Supardi said results of the hemodynamic assessment of Soeharto's brain and other examinations will be submitted to the attorney general as soon as possible.

Security was far from tight during the examination, with only a few police and security officers guarding the radiology ward.

When the tests were completed, Soeharto walked unaided from the hospital to a waiting Volkswagen minivan. He waved and smiled to journalists without speaking.

The brain scan was part of the government's comprehensive medical tests conducted on Soeharto, after a number of interrogations were hampered by his apparently failing memory. This prompted his lawyers to urge for a halt to the investigation, saying it was "legally useless".

Originally the brain scan was slated to be held at Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital, but Supardi, who is a vice director of the country's biggest hospital, said the scanner there was temporarily inoperable.

Soeharto has been hospitalized twice since abdicating his office in May 1998, once for a mild stroke and once for intestinal bleeding.

He has undergone seven rounds of questioning since the Attorney General's Office reopened the case in December last year. Attorney General Marzuki Darusman has said Soeharto could stand trial no later than Aug. 10, when his house arrest status ends.

The former president is being investigated for alleged misuse of power by issuing various decrees and rulings to amass wealth through his seven charity foundations.

President Abdurrahman Wahid has appointed Minister of Mines and Energy Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to hold talks with Soeharto's family to discuss the possibility of Soeharto returning any of his ill-gotten monies or assets.

Abdurrahman has repeatedly said he would pardon Soeharto if the latter is found guilty.

Earlier, Attorney General Marzuki Darusman reaffirmed that the ongoing talks would not affect the progress of the investigation.

"What has been conveyed by the government through Susilo is a parallel to the ongoing legal process conducted by the Attorney General's Office. The purpose of the announcement is to provide information to the public demonstrating that the government is serious in recovering the state's assets," he told a media conference on Friday.

Separately, National Police chief Gen. Rusdihardjo said that a number of policemen were on a special training to guard the security of the former president during the latter's house arrest status. The guards will be on post soon, he added.

"Such training is necessary because it's been a long time since we guarded a head of state, all this time the task has been performed by trained presidential security guards," he told journalists at the Attorney General's Office on Friday.

The police have been made responsible for Soeharto's personal security while Jakarta Military Command remains in charge of general security around his residence on Jl. Cendana in Central Jakarta. (bby)