Soehartos back in the courts

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From: Sunny
To: kkn
Sent: Wednesday, January 02, 2008 7:49 AM
Subject: [kkn-watch] Soehartos back in the courts

Soehartos back in the courts
Lindsay Murdoch in Jakarta
January 2, 2008

EVEN the former dictator seemed surprised. "I am becoming rich, suddenly," 86-year-old Soeharto told the Indonesian magazine Gatra after a court ordered he receive a staggering $US109.9 million ($125.8 million) in defamation damages.

But, three months after the shock decision against Time Inc, the magazine publisher's lawyers in Jakarta are preparing to file a 100-page legal challenge in what is seen as a test case for press freedom in Indonesia.

Todung Mulya Lubis, one of the lawyers, told the Herald the challenge included "vindication" of the journalistic practices used by Time when it published a cover story in 1999 alleging in part that Soeharto and his family had $US9 billion stashed in European banks.

"This is not only a case against Time Inc," said Mr Lubis, a prominent human rights lawyer. "This is a case that goes to the very fundamental principles of press freedom and democracy in Indonesia."

The case is expected to be back in the Supreme Court for review this month. The review will coincide with a series of multimillion-dollar claims and counter-claims being heard in other Jakarta courts relating to the business practices of Hutomo Mandala Putra, Soeharto's youngest son, who is more usually known as Tommy.

Since being freed last year after serving a third of a 15-year jail sentence for the murder of a Supreme Court judge, the 44-year-old has become locked in legal battles with the Government, which has vowed to confront corruption. It has moved to seize $US138 million from accounts in an Indonesian bank it says was illegally obtained by Tommy Soeharto.

The Government has indicated it would take legal steps to force companies controlled by Tommy to pay $US486 million of debt relating to the 1999 government-agency bale-out of one of his companies. The Government and Tommy are also locked in a battle over at least $US52 million another of his myriad companies deposited in the British tax haven of Guernsey.

Soeharto told Gatra in a rare interview that he would donate 65 per cent of the Time Inc's damages payment to the poor and give the rest to the state.

Government officials are sceptical of the offer and have revived efforts to bring him to justice despite his poor health.

The Government has filed a civil suit against him seeking $US1.4 billion in assets and damages relating to a charitable foundation he chaired while president. Prosecutors have alleged that millions of dollars in cash intended for educational and social programs ended up in the pockets of his cronies.

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