Mon, Jan 07, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Former Indonesian dictator Suharto improving: doctors

BEDSIDE With visitors such as the president and other top officials rushing to his side, Suharto has shown that he still has influence among the elite

AFP , JAKARTA

The health of former Indonesian former dictator Suharto showed signs of improvement yesterday but remained critical, doctors said two days after he was admitted to hospital with a weak heart and lungs.

Suharto fell ill early last week at his home, which he has rarely left since mass protests and economic turmoil in 1998 ended his 32-year iron-grip and often brutal rule of Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous nation.

He was admitted to hospital on Friday where a team of specialist doctors have been assembled to treat an array of ailments that saw him listed as being in a critical condition on Saturday and put on haemodialysis.

"There have been many good signs showing that his condition is improving," said Marjo Soebiandono, who heads the presidential team of doctors.

He said Suharto's blood pressure was improving and he could show his emotions, such as by smiling, though he still could not speak and remained weak.

Asked whether the critical phase was over, Soebiandono said: "We cannot say that yet, but it is about 60 percent" over.

Suharto's six children, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and a stream of other high-profile officials, including those prominent in his governments, have visited Suharto since his admission to hospital.

The flurry of well-wishers rushing to his side demonstrates the influence Suharto still wields among Indonesia's elite, despite his ignominious fall as leader and allegations of his corruption.

Yesterday, Constitutional Court head Jimly Asshiddiqie stopped by and told reporters afterwards that Suharto had been sleeping and he could only pray for his health at his sickbed.

Djoko Raharjo, who heads the Pertamina hospital where Suharto is being treated, declined to speculate on when Suharto's health might return to a normal level, saying only that "his condition is being monitored every hour."

A press release read out by another doctor at the hospital advised that Suharto's heart and lung functions had improved and that liquid retention in his body was decreasing.

Suharto was put on haemodialysis on Saturday after his low blood pressure rose sufficiently during the day.

His poor health saw a criminal trial against him for corruption abandoned in 2006, despite him being accused of amassing billions of dollars for himself, his family and cronies while in power.

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