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The BBC's Richard Galpin in Jakarta
"A severe setback for the government"
 real 56k

Friday, 29 September, 2000, 07:29 GMT 08:29 UK
Judges dismiss Suharto case
Clashes broke out between pro- and anti-Suharto protesters
Judges have dismissed the corruption case against former Indonesian strongman Suharto after independent doctors pronounced him permanently unfit for trial.

Violence immediately broke out on the streets of Jakarta, with troops firing warning shots above the heads of students marching towards Mr Suharto's house to protest at the court's decision.

Bomb police
Another bomb exploded hours before the trial resumed
The doctors said they believed Mr Suharto was not fit either physically or mentally, and that putting him under stress now could endanger his life.

The former president was charged with misusing more than $500m of Indonesian state funds. Prosecution lawyers have launched an appeal against the judges' decision to throw the case out.

The 79-year-old was examined by a team of doctors for a total of 10 hours at the weekend.

'Mentally unfit'

Dr Zakaria, from the State University of Indonesia who headed the team of examining doctors said: "The entire clinical, psychiatric and psychogeriatric findings show that Suharto is mentally unfit for trial."

Announcing the dropping of charges against Mr Suharto, the court also said it was lifting the city arrest order against him, allowing him to travel anywhere.

Former President Suharto
Mr Suharto had been ordered to appear in court
At least 50 protesters and some security officials were injured in running street battles that lasted into the night.

Riot police fired tear gas as protesters clashed with Suharto loyalists.

Unconfirmed reports said one person had been killed and more than 50 arrested.

According to reports some members of the pro-Suharto group said they were paid up to $20 each to attend the trial.

Anti-Suharto supporters vowed to keep up their protests until the former president was sent to prison.

"The doctors are all lying," said demonstrator, Zul Sikri. "Suharto must go to jail and we will keep protesting until that happens."

'Leave them be'

Out of the hot seat: The empty defendant's chair in court
Earlier, Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid instructed troops guarding the Jakarta home of former president not to chase away student protesters.

"The most they can do is throw stones at the windows."

" Leave them be, I mean Suharto was very corrupt, wasn't he," the state-run news agency Antara quoted Pesident Wahid as saying.

In a separate development, Indonesia's justice minister said that Mr Suharto's youngest son, Tommy, would be jailed within two days.

Bomb blast

Doctors told the court the former president was too ill to stand trial
He was sentenced on Wednesday to 18 months in jail for corruption.

A few hours later, a bomb exploded outside the office of a prominent Indonesian human rights group. No-one was injured.

Bomb blasts and street clashes have coincided with major developments in Indonesia's attempts to bring Mr Suharto and his family to justice.

The day before the last hearing a bomb went off at the Jakarta stock exchange, killing 15 people.

Mr Suharto's non-appearance that time also sparked angry protests in central Jakarta with police firing teargas as demonstrators tried to march on the former president's home.

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See also:

27 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Tommy Suharto convicted
15 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Profile: Suharto's playboy son
14 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Judge orders tests on Suharto
28 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Why Suharto can't stand trial
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