Indonesian court acquits Suharto, finds charity guilty of graft

Other News Materials 27 March 2008 12:03 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - An Indonesian court acquitted Thursday the late former president Suharto in a civil corruption case but ordered his charitable foundation to repay 105 million dollars in government funds.

Suharto, who died on January 27 at the age of 86, and the Supersemar charity foundation he chaired, were defendants in a civil corruption case in which the government was seeking 1.4 billion dollars in assets and damages.

After his death, the court ordered the late former president's family members to stand as defendants in the civil case.

"The first defendant (Suharto) is acquitted but the Supersemar foundation, the second defendant, has to pay some of the damages," said chief judge Wahyono of the South Jakarta District Court.

The foundation collected donations form businessmen and other sources to provide scholarships. Many organizations regarded such donations as more or less compulsory during Suharto's rule.

Prosecutors alleged the foundation paid money to companies run by members of the Suharto family and their close associates, including a privately owned bank, a logging company and an airline controlled by one of Suharto's sons.

One of the Suharto family's lawyers, Juan Felix Tampubolon, strongly denied the accusations, saying the charity had not violated any laws. He said the Suharto family was planned to file an appeal to a higher court in an attempt to overturn the ruling.

Suharto's family accumulated extensive business interests during the former strongman's three decades in power, including hotels, toll roads, car manufacturers, airlines and television stations.

Transparency International ranked Suharto as the world's leading kleptocrat, with a plundered fortune estimated at 15-35 billion dollars.

Suharto was ousted in 1998 amid political and economic chaos. While he is credited by many for pulling millions of Indonesians out of poverty, his rule was also marred by human rights abuses and widespread corruption.

During his lifetime Suharto escaped any criminal or civil punishment for human rights abuses and corruption carried out during his 32-year rule of Indonesia.

Attempts to bring criminal charges for graft against Suharto were dropped in 2001 because the supreme court justice at the time ruled he was too ill to stand trial.