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Thursday, 24 August, 2000, 13:08 GMT 14:08 UK
Protesters stage pro-Suharto rally
Pro Suharto demo
The rally was the first known pro-Suharto protest
Supporters of former Indonesian dictator Suharto have been protesting against his upcoming corruption trial in the first such rally since his fall from power.

Suharto
Mr Suharto's lawyers say he is too ill to appear in court
Around 200 youths gathered outside a Jakarta court waving banners praising Mr Suharto's contribution to the economy.

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

The South Jakarta Court has ordered him to appear in person next Thursday for the start of his corruption trial.

Protests

Students and reformists have staged repeated demonstrations at Mr Suharto's Jakarta home since his fall from power.

Pro Suharto demo
Protesters praised Suharto's economic contribution
But Thursday's rally is the first-known "pro-Suharto" protest since the former leader stepped down in May 1998 amid social and economic turmoil.

The demonstrators said they represented the United Muslim Movement, according to the AFP news agency.

They said Mr Suharto had made "a tremendous contribution" to Indonesia's development during his 32 years in power.

'Too ill'

Mr Suharto's trial is due to begin on 31 Auguest.

It will be held at the agriculture ministry, about a mile from the court, for reasons of security and space.

His lawyers say he 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 medical tests show the former president is fit to stand trial.

Mr Suharto denies the charges against him and has offered to return any funds which prosecutors can prove were obtained illegally.

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

But he has said he plans to pardon the former president if he is convicted.

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See also:

23 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Date set for Suharto trial
21 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Suharto 'has $45bn' hidden away
21 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Suharto assets seized
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