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The BBC's Clive Myrie
"Suharto's lawyers say he's too ill to appear in court"
 real 56k

The BBC's Simon Ingram
"Former President Suharto's appearance before a Jakarta court will represent the crowning humiliation "
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Wednesday, 23 August, 2000, 08:52 GMT 09:52 UK
Date set for Suharto trial
Protest
Pressure has been growing for Suharto to stand trial
The corruption trial of former Indonesian President Suharto will begin on 31 August, court officials in Jakarta have announced.

The judge who will hear the case said the 79-year old former leader will be obliged to attend the hearing.

Suharto
Mr Suharto's lawyers say he is too ill to appear in court
"I have said that I will order the prosecutors to make him come to the trial," chief judge Lalu Mariyun told a packed news conference in Jakarta on Wednesday morning.

Mr Suharto's lawyers say their client, who ruled the country for 32 years, is too ill to attend the court and has trouble answering even basic questions following a series of strokes.

However the Indonesian attorney-general says the medical tests have proved the former president is fit enough to stand trial.

State funds

Announcing the date Judge Mariyun said the trial would be open to the public and would be held in the Department of Agriculture building in south Jakarta, where more space is available than in conventional court rooms.

Mr Suharto has been charged with siphoning off at least $570 million in state funds through a network of charities under his control.

He was forced from power two years ago amid a series of anti-government protests.

Suharto
Fall from grace: Suharto was forced to stand down in May 1998
He denies the charges and has offered to return any funds which prosecutors can prove were obtained illegally.

Correspondents say the case is being seen as a critical test for the government of President Abdurrahman Wahid which has pledged to crack down on corruption.

If convicted Mr Suharto faces a lengthy prison sentence, although President Wahid has said he plans to pardon the former dictator.

Mr Wahid has said he believes the Suharto family may have amassed a fortune of up to $45bn during his three decades in power.

After his fall from grace, many state firms cancelled contracts with Suharto's relatives, saying they had been forced into them on unfavourable terms.

The trial is due to start at 1000 local time (0300GMT) on 31 August and prosecutors say they plan to call at least 130 witnesses to testify against the former leader.

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See also:

21 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Suharto 'has $45bn' hidden away
21 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Suharto assets seized
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