Sun, 05 Nov 2000

Tommy to appear on Monday, ready to serve time: Lawyer

JAKARTA (JP): Former president Soeharto's youngest son Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra will appear at the prosecutor's office on Monday to be taken to Cipinang prison to begin serving his 18- month jail term for corruption, his lawyer said on Saturday.

"I have been informed that Tommy will be ready, with his lawyers, to appear at the South Jakarta Prosecutor's Office on Monday at about 9 a.m.," Tommy's lawyer Erman Umar told The Jakarta Post in a telephone interview.

Tommy went missing after an arrest warrant was issued on Friday and was declared a fugitive.

Erman denied, however, suggestions that Tommy had tried to flee.

"I cannot confirm whether he was out of town or not yesterday (Friday) ... that is possible ... but what I can say right now is that he was not trying to escape," Erman said.

"I have been informed that as of Saturday afternoon he (Tommy) is in Jakarta," he added.

Erman said Tommy left his residence in Menteng, Central Jakarta, on Friday because "as of 2 p.m. my client had not received a copy of the presidential decree".

Erman was referring to President Abdurrahman Wahid's rejection of a clemency appeal by his client.

Tommy's lawyers have repeatedly claimed that the execution of the jail sentence could only be implemented if a copy of the presidential decree was in their client's hands.

Tommy and his business partner Ricardo Gelael were sentenced to 18 months in jail in late September when the Supreme Court overturned two lower court verdicts and found them guilty of corruption in a land scam.

Ricardo surrendered to authorities on Friday night and began serving his 18-month sentence.

Tommy has denied any wrongdoing and has filed an appeal against the verdict, which overturned his acquittal in a lower court several months earlier.

An arrest warrant was issued on Friday after a last minute glitch in paperwork. However, prosecutors and police found no sign of Tommy when they arrived at his residence.

Earlier in the day, President Abdurrahman Wahid called on the public to remain calm following Friday night's failure to send Tommy to prison.

"President Abdurrahman Wahid appeals for public patience as the state apparatus are still continuing efforts to find Tommy's whereabouts and put him in jail," Abdurrahman said in a statement issued by the presidential secretary's office.

Outside the Cipinang prison on Saturday about 60 former inmates staged a protest demanding Tommy and Ricardo be given the same treatment as ordinary prisoners.

If jailed, Tommy will be the first from the Soeharto family to be put behind bars since his father stepped down in May 1998.

Tommy, along with his five siblings, controls some of the country's biggest conglomerates, which were allegedly obtained by using their father's power prior to his fall.(01/byg)