Suharto Formally Charged With Corruption

ByABC News
August 3, 2000, 1:57 AM

J A K A R T A, Indonesia, Aug. 3 -- The Indonesian Attorney Generals office formally charged disgraced former PresidentSuharto with corruption, bringing the one-time despot closer to court.

Attorney General Marzuki Darusman later insisted that the frail 79-year-old Suharto must face trial despite arguments by the ex-presidents lawyers that he is too ill.

If he doesnt appear in court, then the court will rulewhether or not we might be able to use compulsory measures tomake him appear, Darusman told BBC television.

Asked by Reuters whether the ailing Suharto had been chargedwith graft, Yushar Yahya, spokesman for the Attorney GeneralsOffice, said: Yes, it is related to corruption.

Suhartos status, as of today, is as an accused, headded. There will be a team of prosecutors, and they willmake the indictment, which will be read in the court.

Charges Unclear

A trial is expected to start this month.

It was unclear what jail term Suharto who, like many Indonesians, uses only one name could face over thecharges. Some officials said he could face a maximum sentence of life in prisonlife.

Suharto steered Indonesia through three decades of rapideconomic growth and stability and then watched his work unravelin a matter of months.

He was forced to step down on May 21, 1998, during a savageeconomic downturn, mass protests against his rule and anexplosion of deadly rioting in Jakarta.

The benefits of the 32 years under Suhartos iron fist havenow been mostly forgotten and the era is mainly remembered forits massive corruption and human rights abuses.

Critics have labeled the charges against Suharto, who isaccused of misusing up to $550 million from seven charities hecontrolled while in power, as inadequate.

Suharto and his family have been accused of corruptlyamassing a $45 billion fortune during his presidency. The formerstrongman and his family have denied any wrongdoing.