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Lawyer says Suharto ready to surrender

Tommy Suharto -- File
Tommy Suharto leaves police headquarters after being questioned in this September 16, 2000 file photo  

JAKARTA, Indonesia - After being on the run for more than a year, lawyers for Tommy Suharto, fugitive son of Indonesia's former leader Suharto, said their client was finally ready to surrender.

"He is ready to leave his hiding place," lawyer Elza Syarief told the Associated Press news agency. "In my estimation, it will be before the end of October."

The announcement came after the Supreme Court overturned the graft conviction and an 18-month prison term against the son of Indonesia's former leader Suharto.

The country's most-wanted man went into hiding after he was sentenced by the same High Court last September for his part in a 1995 multimillion-dollar real estate scam that involved one of his companies and the state's main food distribution agency.

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He had been the only member of the Suharto family found guilty of corruption, although several of his siblings have also been investigated.

Tommy was also accused of several bombings and of masterminding the July assassination of a judge who found him guilty.

This time, however, Syarief said Tommy was eager to prove he was not involved in the judge's murder or the bomb blasts.

'No bribe'

One of the three Supreme Court Justices who heard Monday's appeal denied he had taken bribes from members of the Suharto clan.

"If you can prove I accepted a bribe, report me to the attorney general," Supreme Court Deputy Chairman Muhamad Taufik told reporters.

Justice Taufiq told Associated Press that Tommy should not have been found guilty the corruption scam since he was not part of its day-to-day operations.

Megawati and Rachman
Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri shakes hands with Attorney General Muhamad Abdul Rachman  

But anti-graft activists, politicians and government officials have criticized the three-member panel's decision, noting the decision could further erode the rule of law in the country.

"This is not justice," Teten Masduki of Indonesian Corruption Watch told the Associated Press.

But Chief Justice Bagir Manan, who was appointed this year to strengthen and reform the court, said the review of Tommy's case had been conducted fairly.

"It was based only on the law and had nothing to do with politics," he told privately owned Metro TV.

Indonesia's judicial system has long been accused of being corrupt and politically influenced.

Suharto, 80, was also charged last year in a separate graft case, but has evaded prosecution by claiming he is too ill and old to face trial.

Although pro-democracy protests forced Suharto from office in 1998, critics say he and his wealthy family remain immensely powerful and untouchable by the law.


• Government of Indonesia

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