Thu, 12 Feb 2004

Tommy given pass for medical checkup

M. Taufiqurrahman and Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A team of 10 doctors at Gatot Subroto Army Hospital is expected to carry out a thorough medical checkup -- using state-of-the-art equipment -- on convict Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra, former president Soeharto's youngest son, on Thursday to determine the seriousness of his illness.

Tommy's lawyer, Elza Syarief, said on Wednesday that the results of the checkup would be submitted to the Central Jakarta District Court and would advise the court of the recommended length of Tommy's stay in the hospital.

"The results will also determine whether the Batu Penitentiary warden will extend his pass," she told reporters waiting in front of Tommy's four heavily guarded VIP rooms in the hospital's Kartika Pavilion.

Tommy failed to turn up at court for the seventh time to testify in the trial of Islamic boarding school leader Abdullah Sidiq Muin, who is being tried for allegedly accepting Rp 15 billion (US$1.76 million) from Tommy as payment to get him a pardon from then president Abdurrahman Wahid.

The convict is currently serving a 15-year sentence at Batu Penitentiary on Nusakambangan island, Central Java, for illegal weapons possession and masterminding the murder of Supreme Court Justice M. Syafiuddin Kartasasmita, who in 2000 sentenced him to 18 months in prison for graft.

The 10-doctor team has closely monitored Tommy's condition.

"For that purpose, no one is allowed to meet him," Elza said.

The head of the team, Dr. Robertus Hutauruk, said the team would meet to draw up a recommendation, on how long Tommy should remain in the hospital, for the court after the medical checkup was complete.

When asked about Tommy's latest condition, he only said: "He may look fine on the outside but who knows what's really happening in his mind?"

A doctor from the prison testified in court on Tuesday that Tommy had a variety of symptoms, such as "chest pains, vertigo, dyspepsia and depression".

It is believed that Tommy -- who was extend many facilities by his father during his presidency -- is finding it difficult to adjust to life behind bars and has been under severe stress.

Soeharto, who ruled Indonesia for 32 years, also managed to avoid court -- on charges of corruption involving US$600 million in state funds -- after being declared mentally unfit to stand trial by a team of doctors.

Despite the doctors' claims, Soeharto has on occasional appeared to be of sound mind. Last weekend, former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohammad chatted with Soeharto when he visited him at his residence at Jl. Cendana 8, Central Jakarta.

Soeharto and his eldest daughter Siti Hardiyanti "Tutut" Rukmana visited Tommy at the hospital under tight security for around two hours. Tutut was also scheduled to appear at the same trial but did not appear.

Separately, Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra said his ministry had nothing to do with the penitentiary allowing Tommy fly to Jakarta for medical treatment.

"Permission to leave the prison can only be obtained from the local justice and human rights office without asking it from me," he said.

He said a big deal was being made out of Tommy's absence from prison only because he was connected to Soeharto.