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Tommy Suharto murder trial resumes

Tommy during last Wednesday's opening proceedings
Tommy during last Wednesday's opening proceedings  

Staff and wires

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- The prosecution has begun presenting its case during the resumption of the murder trial of Tommy Suharto, the youngest son of Indonesia's former President Suharto.

Hutomo Mandala Putra, popularly known as Tommy, is accused of masterminding the murder last year of a Supreme Court judge who sentenced him to 18 months in jail for corruption.

Tommy is not expected to take the stand during the trial's resumption on Wednesday but two extra sitting judges have been appointed to the bench, Reuters news agency reported.

"It turns out that this case has attracted attention from the nation and globally, therefore it is necessary to add two more judges," Reuters quoted presiding judge Amiruddin Zakaria.

The trial -- which began last week and is expected to last several months -- is being seen as a big test for Indonesia's justice system with many Indonesians skeptical that someone from such a wealthy and privileged background will face the full force of the law.

Death penalty

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Tommy faces four charges -- premeditated murder, illegal possession of arms and flight -- and if convicted of murder, under Indonesian law, he could face the death penalty.

Tommy went on the run in September 2000 shortly after he was sentenced to 18-months imprisonment for graft, sparking a massive and often-farcical manhunt by Indonesian police that lasted more than a year.

In July 2001, during his time in hiding, two men on motorcycles gunned down Justice Syafiuddin Kartasasmita -- the presiding judge in Tommy's trial.

The gunmen later told police that Tommy had given them several thousand dollars and the weapons to do it.

They subsequently retracted that statement and a separate trial began several weeks ago.

'Palace' prison conditions

Tommy Suharto (center left) was arrested last November after more than a year on the run
Tommy Suharto (center left) was arrested last November after more than a year on the run  

Tommy was eventually recaptured by police in November last year and has been held ever since at a central Jakarta jail.

A report in Indonesia's Tempo magazine said that Tommy was living in a "palace" while in jail -- much to the consternation of other prisoners.

The Tempo article said that Tommy had a large tiled cell to himself, complete with private bathroom, a table, chairs, a spring bed, fan, cooking utensils and air-conditioning -- all "installed by Tommy's men."

He was due to be transferred to an even bigger cell, currently being renovated, the report said.

Tommy -- who has denied any involvement in the murder of Justice Syafiuddin -- was known for his playboy lifestyle of fast cars and glamorous companions.

He was the most flamboyant of former president Suharto's six children and is the only member of the family so far to be brought to trial to face corruption charges.

His actual conviction for graft was overturned whilst he was on the run.


Plans to bring the former leader himself to court collapsed in September 2000 after judges ruled that he was too ill to face trial.

Doctors said that the elder Suharto was not fit mentally and physically to stand trial and, they warned, doing so could endanger his life.

The former president ruled Indonesia with an iron first for more than three decades until massive street protests brought about by the collapse of the Indonesian economy forced him from power in 1998.

During his time in power he and his family were alleged to have amassed hundreds of millions of dollars in personal wealth creamed off from state assets and kickbacks given in return for lucrative business contracts.


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