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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 August 2007, 07:51 GMT 08:51 UK
Suharto case begins in Indonesia
Former Indonesian President Suharto (file image from May 2005)
The former leader has been in poor health in recent years
Judges in Indonesia have begun hearing a civil suit against former President Suharto, meant to recover state funds said to have vanished during his rule.

Prosecutors are seeking $440m (219m) they say disappeared from a scholarship fund, and a further $1.1bn in damages.

They have been under pressure to file a civil case since the courts blocked a criminal case last year on the grounds of Mr Suharto's ill health.

The 86-year-old former dictator ruled Indonesia for 32 years.

He was ousted in 1998 amid nationwide protests.

Legal loopholes?

The ailing former president was not in court for Thursday's proceedings.

In a session lasting just 20 minutes, judges gave the prosecution team and lawyers defending Mr Suharto a month to try to reach a settlement.

The attorney-general's director of civil suits described the month-long postponement as a delaying tactic, and accused the defence lawyer of using legal loopholes to hold up the trial.

The lawyer had argued that the current attorney-general did not have the jurisdiction to bring the case against Mr Suharto, as that power had been handed to his predecessor.

If no agreement is reached in the course of the next month, the case will return to court.

Mr Suharto faced numerous allegations of corruption during his rule, but in May 2006 prosecutors closed the criminal case for corruption against him, citing health grounds.

The octogenarian has had a number of strokes and last year underwent stomach surgery.

Archive footage of former President Suharto

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