Suharto's son charged over murder of judge; trial to begin soon

Friday, March 8, 2002

Suharto's son charged over murder of judge; trial to begin soon

AP Photos JAK112

By CHRIS BRUMMITT

The Associated Press JAKARTA, Indonesia -- The youngest son of ex-dictator Suharto was formally charged Thursday with the killing of a Supreme Court justice in a case seen as a test of Indonesia's corrupt legal system.

The trial of Hutomo Mandala Putra, known as "Tommy," was expected to begin in a week to 10 days, court clerk Utol Sidapalok said. State prosecutors filed the charges against Tommy in Central Jakarta District Court.

The former millionaire playboy is accused of involvement in the killing of a Supreme Court judge who sentenced him in Sept. 2000 to 18 months in jail over a multimillion-dollar real estate scam, prosecutor Andi Rachman Asbar said.

Tommy is also charged with illegal possession of weapons and fleeing from justice, Asbar said.

If he is found guilty for the killing, he could be sentenced to death. Tommy is currently being held in a Jakarta prison.

Critics fear that Tommy has enough money and friends in high places to bribe his way to freedom in Indonesia's notoriously corrupt legal system.

Tommy went into hiding shortly after the court decision 18 months ago. He was recaptured in November in a villa in south Jakarta after a massive manhunt.

During his disappearance, four men on motorcycles shot and killed Justice Syafiuddin Kartasasmita -- the presiding judge in Tommy's graft trial.

Tommy's father ruled Indonesia with an iron fist for 32 years before he was forced from office in 1998 amid riots and pro-democracy protests.

Tommy is the first member of the superrich former first family to be convicted of corruption. Last year, charges against Suharto, 81, were dropped after he claimed to be too ill to face trial.

During the dictatorship, Tommy built himself an international business empire worth an estimated $800 million.

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