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Indonesia's Suharto Given State Funeral


Indonesia's former president Suharto has been laid to rest during a state funeral at the family mausoleum in the Central Java city of Solo. Mr. Suharto died Sunday at the age of 86 from multiple organ failure. VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins in Jakarta reports that human rights groups are demanding justice for the victims of abuses during his 32 years in power.

Thousands of people lined roadways in the Central Java city of Solo to watch the motorcade carrying Mr. Suharto's body.

Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a former military general who owes his career to Mr. Suharto, has declared a week of national mourning for the controversial ex-president. The current leader delivered a eulogy at the funeral.

Mr. Yudhoyono read a long list of Mr. Suharto's military accomplishments.

As the funeral ended, Mr. Yudhoyono said Mr. Suharto's service was an example to all and it was now time to offer his body and deeds to the motherland.

Mr. Suharto ruled Indonesia with an iron fist for 32 years until massive protests over worsening social and economic turmoil forced him to step down in 1998.

Although widely acknowledged for bringing modernity and economic prosperity to Indonesia, much of that legacy has been tainted by accusations of corruption and massive human rights abuses.

According to Transparency International, a private anti-corruption agency, Mr. Suharto's six children amassed as much as $35 billion in ill-gotten wealth from their business interests.

They are accused, along with their father, of enriching themselves through graft and illegal business dealings.

He was never tried on corruption charges, ostensibly because of ill health, but the government has an outstanding civil case against the former president for allegedly stealing $1.4 billion through his charitable foundation.

Human Rights Watch and other advocacy groups are calling for justice for the victims of human rights abuses during Mr. Suharto's decades long rule.

At least half a million people were killed in anti-communist purges in the months following Mr. Suharto's rise to power in 1965.

Mr. Suharto's military ruled with impunity, jailing or killing hundreds of thousands of political opponents, student activists, and anti-government forces in Aceh, Papua, and East Timor, which Indonesia invaded in 1975.

Joe Saunders, from Human Rights Watch in New York, says the Indonesian government should prosecute those responsible for systematic rights abuses that took place during the Mr. Suharto's time of office.

"The missing piece in Indonesia's reform story is justice. Mr. Suharto died without ever being brought to trial for the many serious crimes which were committed under his leadership," said Saunders. "It's an imperative to bring to justice many of his cronies who were directly involved - whether we're talking about 1965, Timor, Aceh, Papua.

During the last decade of his life, Mr. Suharto lived quietly and undisturbed in an exclusive housing enclave in central Jakarta.

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