Fri, Feb 29, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Indonesian court rules for Suharto's son in lawsuit

AP , JAKARTA

An Indonesian court awarded damages of US$552,000 to the son of ex-dictator Suharto after ruling yesterday that the state logistics agency defamed him by accusing him of corruption in a civil lawsuit.

The agency claimed Tommy Suharto caused state losses of nearly US$53 million in a 1995 real-estate deal.

"Considering the defendant [Tommy] is a renowned entrepreneur with a national and international reputation, this lawsuit has damaged his reputation, credibility and his business partners in and out of the country," Judge Esran Basuning said.

The ruling will likely anger anti-corruption activists and could raise questions about Indonesia's legal system, which faces its own graft accusations. Critics allege wealthy and powerful defendants routinely bribe judges and prosecutors to get favorable verdicts.

Tommy, who spent five years in jail for ordering the assassination of a Supreme Court judge, was convicted in 2000 of illegally receiving property from the state logistics agency, known as Bulog, in exchange for the construction of a shopping mall.

A higher court later reversed the criminal conviction, but state prosecutors then launched civil proceedings against him earlier this year on behalf of Bulog, but that case was dismissed. Tommy in turn submitted a defamation countersuit claiming the agency had damaged his reputation with the civil suit.

Bulog's lawyer Asfifudin, who like many Indonesians goes by a single name, said the state would file an appeal.

Tommy, who was released in October 2006, is the only member of the Suharto family to be convicted of a crime.

His family and cronies are believed to have amassed billions of dollars during Suharto's 32-year rule, the anti-corruption group Transparency International has said.

Suharto died on Jan. 27 after years of ill health, having never faced charges.

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