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Corruption Trial of Indonesian Parliamentary Speaker Set for Next Week - 2002-03-18

Indonesia's speaker of Parliament will go on trial next week charged with taking part in a $4 million corruption scandal. Meanwhile, thousand of protesters marched on the legislature demanding lawmakers do more to crackdown on corruption.

A court spokesman says Parliamentary Speaker Akbar Tandjung is to due to appear in court next Monday. Mr. Tandjung is the head of the Golkar political party. He has been charged with stealing $4 million in funds intended for a humanitarian program. His accusers say Mr. Tandjung used those funds to help finance Golkar's 1999 election campaign.

Mr. Tandjung has been in detention at the Attorney-General's Office for 11 days. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in jail.

Golkar is the party founded by former President Suharto. It dominated Indonesian politics for more than three decades until the authoritarian ruler was forced to resign because of growing demands for democratic reform.

Since then, Golkar has been trying to redefine itself in line with reform demands. But that may not be enough. Some analysts however say that Golkar may not be able to survive the scandal and could dissolve as a result.

So far, Mr. Tandjung, who denies any wrongdoing, has not resigned his position as Golkar party chief or the Speaker of Parliament. Meanwhile police scuffled with some of the two thousand protesters gathered outside Parliament. Rival groups of pro and anti-Golkar demonstrators marched on the compound in order to pressure legislators meeting inside. Lawmakers are discussing possible ways to handle allegations against Mr. Tandjung.