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Tommy Suharto jailed for murder

Tommy Suharto did not appear in court for the verdict
Tommy Suharto did not appear in court for the verdict  


From Atika Shubert and Kathy Quiano
CNN Correspondents

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- An Indonesian court has sentenced the favorite son of former President Suharto to a total of 15 years in jail for paying a hitman to kill a Supreme Court judge and other offenses.

The verdict was handed down to Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra after a dramatic day in court when the defendant did not appear because he was feeling sick and his defense team walked out.

"The defendant gave money to (a hitman) to follow his orders. The panel of judges did not find reasons ... to erase the accountability of the defendant, therefore the defendant has to be declared guilty," said Andi Samsan Nganro, a member of the panel of five judges.

Tommy's defense team has said all the charges were baseless, and one lawyer for Indonesia's most famous criminal, a high-living playboy, said they would probably appeal.

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"I am afraid the press has pressured the judges to make such a verdict, because if not, it would not have matched what the media wanted. It has been an unfair trial since the beginning," lawyer Muhammad Assegaf told Reuters.

The trial was the most watched court case in Indonesia -- with the verdict seen as a crucial test of public confidence in Indonesia's tarnished legal system.

Tommy, 40, was accused of ordering the death of Supreme Court Judge Syafiuddin Kartasasmita, who sentenced him to 18 months in prison in 2000 for a multimillion-dollar real estate scam.

Prosecutors alleged that Tommy initially tried to overturn the corruption ruling by bribing the judge. When that failed, they say, Tommy ordered the judge's assassination.

Kartasasmita was gunned down by two men riding motorbikes. When the men were arrested, they claimed Tommy had paid them for the killing.

After being sentenced to time in jail for corruption, Tommy -- the youngest son of Indonesia's once powerful, now disgraced former ruler -- eluded police for more than a year with the help, he says, of crooked cops.

'A joke'

The murder charge carried a maximum penalty of death, but prosecutors asked for a maximum sentence of 15 years -- a sentence so light, considering the charges, local media have called it a "joke."

U.N. investigator Param Cumaraswamy has described the trial as "one of the worst he has ever seen."

The verdict in Tommy's murder trial was broadcast live across Indonesia
The verdict in Tommy's murder trial was broadcast live across Indonesia  

"There are serious problems and particularly allegations, widespread allegations of corruption in the system," he told CNN.

"But then the allegations of corruption must be seen in the light of similar allegations in the entire public administration."

Tommy's lawyers have also been accused of bribing witnesses. They deny all charges.

"If I were a prosecutor, I would have requested him to be punished severely and have the maximum penalty either life or death sentence. But they didn't," Harkristuti Harkrisnowo of the University of Indonesia, told CNN.