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Suharto's Son Convicted in Murder

July 27, 2002|From Associated Press

JAKARTA, Indonesia — The playboy son of former dictator Suharto was convicted Friday of ordering the murder of a Supreme Court justice and was sentenced to 15 years in prison in a case that symbolizes Indonesia's struggle to rein in judicial corruption and the abuses that defined the Suharto era.

Advocates for judicial reform hope the ruling will put other former Suharto cronies on notice--and possibly signal a more honest approach to ensuring justice in a country widely seen as among Asia's most corrupt.

Still, some Indonesians scoffed at the sentence for Hutomo Mandala Putra, better known simply as Tommy, saying the 40-year-old tycoon got off easy. His conviction for murder, illegal weapons possession and fleeing justice could have brought a death sentence.

Critics note that the two men convicted of shooting Supreme Court Justice Syaifudin Kartasasmita received life sentences.

"It hurts very much," said Kartasasmita's widow, Iwah Setyawati. "This sentence is not enough. I have lost my husband. I have lost everything."

Iwah testified during the trial that Tommy attempted to bribe her husband, who had sentenced him to 18 months in prison in a September 2000 graft case.

Friday's verdict was delivered during a 10-hour proceeding that was most notable for the defendant's absence from the courtroom. His lawyers tried unsuccessfully to postpone the verdict, saying it was unfair to proceed because their client was sick and unable to attend.

Doctors examined Tommy and confirmed that he had a stomachache. A packed courtroom burst into applause when presiding Judge Amiruddin Zakaria rejected the defense request for a delay and began reading the verdict.

Tommy has one week in which to appeal, which is considered likely.

Kartasasmita was shot by two hit men on a motorcycle a year ago Friday. The court said that Tommy paid $11,000 to the two men to kill the judge and that the handgun used belonged to Tommy.

By the time he was arrested on Nov. 28, 2001--after more than a year on the run after his graft conviction--Tommy had come to symbolize the excesses committed by Indonesia's ruling class during his father's reign, which ended in 1998 amid widespread pro-democracy demonstrations.

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