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Thursday, 28 September, 2000, 13:46 GMT 14:46 UK
Why Suharto can't stand trial
Mr Suharto leaving hospital
Mr Suharto has suffered three strokes
He was once the feared autocrat who ruled Indonesia for 32 years, but today the elderly Mr Suharto barely has the comprehension of a young child, according to doctors.

Doctors show the court Mr Suharto's  brain scans
Doctors said scans showed the former president had brain damage
Judges threw out the charges against the former president after a panel of independent doctors deemed him unfit to stand trial.

The 79-year-old former president has suffered three strokes since stepping down in 1998 which have left him brain-damaged.

Doctors told the South Jakarta Court that Mr Suharto was mentally incapable of withstanding the rigours of a long court case.

"Suharto has trouble expressing himself," said Dr Zakaria, the head of the medical team that examined him.

"When he speaks he stops often and uses sign language to express himself. He cannot understand complex ideas."

Confused

A report on the Indonesian website detik.com said tests carried out on Mr Suharto showed he could not differentiate between the hour and minute hand on a clock and could not describe faces.

Former President Suharto
Mr Suharto has trouble distinguishing faces
It also quoted a psychiatrist who gave other examples of mental confusion. For example, when told to sit down, Mr Suharto turned off the air conditioner.

The psychiatrist said the former president could only respond to questions if spoken to slowly "and even then he can only answer with about two or three words".

Doctors said Mr Suharto also had prostrate complications, gallstones and vision problems, according to the Indonesian website.

Defiant

Dr Zakaria said Mr Suharto's health would not improve.

Chair
The former autocrat failed to attend any of the trial hearings
"The doctors concluded that Suharto, medically speaking, be it physically or mentally, is...unfit for the trial," he added. "And this is a permanent state"

The court had ordered the independent medical examination after Mr Suharto twice failed to turn up for trial sessions pleading ill health.

A panel of 23 doctors conducted tests on him at the weekend.

Mr Suharto's lawyers said the finding that their client was "permanently" unfit to stand trial meant he could not be prosecuted on any charges for the rest of his life.

But outside the court anti-Suharto protesters remained sceptical.

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

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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
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