Wed, 15 Mar 2000

Soeharto's lawyer hints at prospect of questioning

JAKARTA (JP): In what seems to be a drastic turnaround of events, former president Soeharto's lawyer said his client would fully comply with the Attorney General's Office summons for questioning if an independent medical examination proved he was fit to do so.

Juan Felix Tampubolon said, however, that he feared Soeharto's physical impairment would likely endanger his chance to a fair and impartial judicial process.

"In my view (Soeharto's) condition would be an obstacle to a fair judicial process, but if the Attorney General's Office insists then we can only comply," Tampubolon told The Jakarta Post by phone.

Although Soeharto may appear healthy, most of his speech capability was destroyed by previous health problems, he said.

"When he is trying to explain something, he requires over 50 percent assistance," Tampubolon said.

"Legally, even a healthy person cannot be led in speaking (during questioning). If Soeharto, who needs full assistance in speech, had to undergo questioning, I fear his condition could be rather abused," he said.

Meanwhile, doctors and Attorney General Marzuki Darusman said the former president was likely to be reexamined as he had yet to undergo a full medical checkup.

"There is a possibility that we will need to reexamine him (Soeharto) as the medical examination (on Monday) was not complete and that there are tests which have not been performed," Supardi Sudibyo, medical deputy director of Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital, said.

Supardi refused to elaborate but said that Soeharto's checkup on Monday was actually set to start at 6 p.m. as the full process of a medical examination usually takes about four to five hours.

Soeharto, however, arrived at the hospital at about 9 p.m. and underwent a medical examination for less than two hours.

Supardi added that the examination on Monday was conducted by a team of six doctors including a neurologist, a cardiologist, a psychologist and an internist.

Later in the day, Marzuki confirmed that the former ruler was likely to be reexamined, saying that Soeharto's examination on Monday "has not been fully completed".

"There is a possibility that it (the reexamination of Soeharto) will be conducted today or tomorrow," Marzuki told the Post by phone on Tuesday evening.

Soeharto has been named a suspect by the Attorney General's Office in a probe into alleged corruption during his 32-year rule.

Soeharto's lawyers, however, have repeatedly pleaded that their client is medically unfit to undergo questioning. (06/byg/das)