Mon, 04 Sep 2000

Soeharto's trial wrong from beginning: Amien

YOGYAKARTA (JP): Speaker of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) Amien Rais said on Saturday that the trial of former president Soeharto would not have developed into a political debate if there had been no flaws in his medical reports from the very beginning.

"The case would not be in its present condition, if the Attorney General's Office had provided the public with an authentic and authoritative medical report from a reliable medical team," Amien told reporters on the sidelines of a seminar at Gadjah Mada University.

"What we now have is a situation of no trust. Some say this is just cosmetic, while others say this is only a drama," he said, also expressing confidence that Soeharto would not show up at the next hearing on September 14.

Amien, also chairman of the National Mandate Party (PAN), predicted that the trial would never reach its goal of upholding law and justice because of its political importance.

"It's now up to the people's representatives (legislators) to pressure the Attorney General's Office not to be uncertain in handling the case," he said.

He regretted that the case was beyond simply returning the money and now must be resolved in court.

"We have arrived at a compromise to solve the problem, that is by taking Soeharto into a fair and transparent trial, sentencing him with a clear verdict, especially whether the court should order him to return his fortune to the state, and then forgive him," he said.

"Gus Dur (President Abdurrahman Wahid) has given a guarantee that he will be pardoned should the court determine that Soeharto is guilty.

"But how can we forgive him if he never finishes the trial?" he said.

Avoiding the trial, Amien said, would only leave a time bomb because if the people went mad because of the trial, no power would be able to stop them.

"Just like what we experienced in the past," he said.

Therefore, he suggested the Attorney General's Office take proactive measures in handling the case.

Separately, legal experts called on the South Jakarta District Court on Sunday looking for ways to continue with the trial.

"The panel of judges should dare to take an initiative to create new legal structure aimed at upholding the law," said law professor Satjipto Rahardjo of Diponegoro University, Semarang.

He said the judges should be creative to make the legal process continue, such as holding a hearing at Soeharto's residence, or holding the trial without Soeharto.

He said in an in absentia trial, questions from judges and prosecutors could be submitted to Soeharto through his lawyers, although it would take more time.

"So, the trial does not stop because the defendant is unfit," Satjipto, also member of the National Commission on Human Rights, said.

He quoted the Criminal Code Procedure that stated a criminal case could only be stopped if the defendant was dead or insane.

"I think Soeharto is not included in either category," he said.

Law professor Mahfudz Ali of Sultan Agung Islamic University, Yogyakarta shared Satjipto's opinion.

"If Soeharto cannot attend the hearing, he could give written answers to questions from the judges and the prosecutors. Not all sick people can go to court," Mahfudz said.

He suggested that Soeharto should be examined by an independent team of doctors to decide whether he could go to court or not.

However, he said if the team found that Soeharto could not go to court, the trial should be stopped.

"If we forcibly conducted the trial, it would violate his (Soeharto's) basic rights," Mahfudz said. (swa/har/jun)