The hearing was adjourned until September 14 to give a team of state-appointed doctors time to examine the former leader, said by his defense to be suffering from the effects of three strokes, hypertension, diabetes, kidney failure and several other ailments.
Suharto's failure to appear surprised few inside the courtroom--which has been set up inside the Agriculture Ministry in South Jakarta for security reasons--and angered students demonstrating outside the building. "They should just hang Suharto and get it over with," said Edi Kusnadi, one of the hundreds of protesters gathered in the streets with banners and megaphones calling on the government to "Drag Suharto from his death bed."
Despite President Abdurrahman Wahid's promise to grant Suharto a pardon, if found guilty, the trial is seen as a critical test of the new government's resolve in bringing to justice the man accused by students of widescale human-rights abuses and amassing a multibillion dollar fortune during his 32 years in power.
Though considered untouchable until his downfall in May 1998, Suharto is now confined to his home in central Jakarta, where he and his family will remain under tight security as legal experts debate whether he can be tried in absentia.
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