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Last Updated: Friday, 19 May 2006, 08:24 GMT 09:24 UK
Suharto 'gravely ill' in hospital
Former Indonesian President Suharto gestures to journalists as he sits on a wheelchair upon leaving Pertamina Hospital in Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, May 11, 2005.
Suharto has escaped trial on the grounds of ill health
Former Indonesian leader Suharto is in a "serious condition", President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has said after visiting him in hospital.

Mr Suharto, 84, has suffered several strokes since he left office in 1998 amid street protests and riots.

Charges of embezzling $600m (322m) from the state during his 30 years in power were dropped last week on account of his ill health.

Mr Yudhoyono said visiting Mr Suharto in hospital was his "moral duty".

"I have done the same for all senior government officials, including former presidents and vice presidents, when they were sick," Mr Yudhoyono said. "And he is seriously ill."

He spent 20 minutes with the former leader at Pertamina hospital.

RISE AND FALL OF SUHARTO
Born in Java, June 1921
As army minister, plays a central role in helping Sukarno overcome a coup in 1965
Becomes president March 1967
Modernisation programmes in the 70s and 80s raise living standards
East Timor forcibly annexed in late 1975
Asian economic crisis of the 1990s hits Indonesian economy
Spiralling prices and discontent force him to resign in May 1998
Judges rule he is unfit to stand trial for corruption in 2000

Doctors at the hospital told the French news agency AFP that they had operated on Mr Suharto again - the third time in a fortnight - to remove blood clots near the site of last week's intestinal operation which were in danger of causing infections.

They said the former strongman had suffered a deterioration in the tissues of his brain.

"Some brain cells have died, which will be difficult to regenerate, and it has caused spasms," Dr Joko Rahardjo told AFP.

The head of the hospital, Adji Suprajitno, told a news conference that Suharto's condition was still critical.

"This critical phase has been longer than we had expected. The wish was the critical phase would be over in a week, but it turned out that it is not over until now, because it has implicated other organs," he said.

Mr Yudhoyono made no comment on Suharto's legal status.

Last week Indonesian prosecutors issued a letter to close the corruption case against the former leader on health grounds, despite Mr Yudhoyono saying hours earlier that now was not the right time to discuss the issue.

Lawyers, however, say it is up to prosecutors whether or not they pursue a case.

Fifty student demonstrators rallied in the Javan city of Yogyakarta on Friday, chanting "Hang Suharto" and "Try him!" and more protests are scheduled for the capital Jakarta.


SEE ALSO:
Suharto corruption case dropped
12 May 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Indonesia reviewing Suharto case
11 May 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Suharto to be checked for trial
24 Apr 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Indonesia's Suharto 'feels better'
10 May 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Indonesia's Suharto seriously ill
09 May 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Rise and fall of strongman Suharto
28 Sep 00 |  Asia-Pacific


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