Mon, 14 Aug 2000

Soeharto's health decline: Lawyer

JAKARTA (JP): With former president Soeharto's corruption trial approaching, a lawyer said on Sunday the country's former ruler was not healthy enough for the court proceedings.

Juan Felix Tampubolon, one of Soeharto's lawyers, said his client's health had been on the decline since he was first questioned over corruption allegations last April.

"I cannot tell you the details. But doctors said Soeharto's physical condition and spirit have been decreasing," Tampubolon told The Jakarta Post.

He said his client's age and uneasiness at being the target of investigation were the main reasons for Soeharto's worsening health.

The 79-year-old Soeharto underwent his latest medical checkup, including a brain scan, on Thursday evening at the private Pertamina Hospital in South Jakarta.

"It's just a routine medical examination, which Soeharto's private doctors had scheduled earlier," Tampubolon said, adding that the results of the examination will be given to Soeharto's family on Monday.

Soeharto reportedly has suffered brain damage as a result of a series of strokes last year, when the former president was hospitalized twice at Pertamina Hospital.

According to the results of medical examinations conducted last May by both Soeharto's private medical team and an independent team of doctors, the former ruler has some memory loss and has lost some ability to comprehend complex situations or statements.

Soeharto also was reported by his lawyers to be lacking the ability to construct a logical sentence and to express himself in complete and logical statements.

"Judging by his medical condition, Pak Harto is not able to face any legal process, let alone a trial for a defendant who must make himself clear to the judges," Tampubolon said.

Soeharto is accused of embezzling some Rp 1.4 trillion (US$164.7 million) and about US$416 million in state funds, which allegedly were amassed through his seven tax-free charity foundations.

Soeharto's trial is scheduled to be held in the South Jakarta District Court immediately after the ongoing Annual Session of the People's Consultative Assembly comes to an end next Friday.

The former president also faces a criminal lawsuit which was filed by activists from the Democratic People's Party (PRD) with the Central Jakarta District Court on July 5, 2000.

The Rp 5.5 billion lawsuit also named 12 other defendants who were allegedly involved in the kidnapping and disappearance of political activists following the July 27, 1996, riots. Five people died in the violence and 23 others disappeared.

The lawsuit claims PRD activists were kidnapped and tortured by the military after being accused of instigating the violence at the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) headquarters.

Judges hearing the case adjourned the initial court session on Thursday over a technicality. The trial is now slated to begin on Aug. 31. (bby)