Former Indonesian Leader Suharto Dead

Ex-president, often villified for his brutal rule, dies at 86.

ByABC News
January 8, 2009, 12:09 AM

BALI, Indonesia, Jan. 27, 2008— -- Former Indonesian President Suharto, a U.S. Cold War ally whose controversial three decade rule was marked by human rights abuses and corruption, died today after slipping into a coma.

"He went into a coma at noon, then cardiac arrest an hour later, and he died soon after," chief doctor of the presidential team, Dr. Marjo Subiandono, told ABC News.

Thousands of mourners lined the streets as his body was transported from Pertamina Hospital in Jakarta to where his funeral will take place in Solo, Central Java.

The ceremony will be held within 24 hours of his death. His tomb has been ready for over a week.

Opinions about Suharto's legacy are mixed here in Indonesia.

Many want to see him made accountable for human rights violations and alleged embezzlement during his reign. Up to a million people were killed or imprisoned during his rule and no one has yet been held responsible.

Transparency International has charged that Suharto and his family have acquired billions of dollars in state funds, allegations he and his family denied.

Others recall his ability to develop the nation and maintain economic stability when he first came into office as Indonesia's second president after Sukarno.

Some government leaders paid their respects to Suharto at his bedside and prayed for his recovery. Still others marched in angry protest outside the hospital.

"We all know he (Suharto) had made mistakes, but as Allah (God)'s humble servants we are obliged to pray for the ailing former president," Helmi Adam of the Prosperous Justice Party told Antara News earlier this week.

Suharto, who served as a military officer in the Indonesian National Revolution, ruled from 1967 to 1998. Amid massive riots opening the way for democracy and during the peak of the Asian Financial Crisis, he was overthrown and succeeded by Jusuf Habibie.

Over the last decade, Suharto has lived in political exile in his residence on a leafy lane in the country's capital.

Like many Indonesians, Suharto went by one name. As he dominated the local headlines, he had been referred to as Pak Harto -- "Pak" an Indonesian term used to address an elder, respected man.