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Thursday, October 14, 1999 Published at 13:12 GMT 14:12 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Suharto's son acquitted of corruption

Tommy is acquitted less than a week after charges against his father are dropped

The youngest son of the former Indonesian President Suharto has been acquitted of charges of corruption.

A panel of three judges in the Indonesian capital Jakarta said Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra was proven innocent of corruption in a land-swap deal involving government property.

Prosecutors had argued that Tommy enriched himself and cost the state $10.8m in the 1995 deal, which involved his supermarket chain PT Goro and the state agency Bulog.

Prosecutor Fachmi had sought a two-year jail term for the defendant as well as more than 28 billion rupiah ($3.4m) compensation for the state.

Chief judge Sunarto said none of the witnesses could prove the accused had "directly or indirectly caused a loss to the country".

Supporters cheered loudly and rushed to hug Tommy as the verdict was announced. A co-accused was also acquitted. Prosecutors said they would appeal.

Suharto clan

Tommy, 37, had been the first member of Indonesia's former first family to face trial for corruption.

The verdict in the six-month trial came just days after corruption charges against former President Suharto were dropped.

In that case, Indonesia's acting attorney-general Ismudjoko ruled that there was not enough evidence to continue the investigation.

The former president and his family and friends have been accused of siphoning off millions of dollars of public funds during his 32-year rule.

They are all heavily involved in business, from real estate to oil and airlines.

Opposition leaders condemned the decision to drop charges against Mr Suharto, describing it as "a mockery".

They said it destroyed whatever confidence the people had in the government of President BJ Habibie - Mr Suharto's hand-picked successor.

Indonesia's highest legislative body is due to choose a new head of state in six days time, and President Habibie is standing again for office.

But his campaign has suffered as opponents accuse him of going soft on pursuing corruption allegations against the Suharto clan.

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