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Tommy Suharto Allowed to Visit Ailing Father - 2001-12-18

Tommy Suharto, the detained son of the former Indonesian president, has been allowed to leave jail to visit his ailing father. The 80-year-old former president was admitted to a Jakarta hospital Monday night with pneumonia. Mr. Suharto's youngest son, known as Tommy, was led to his father's hospital bedside Tuesday cuffed to police. Reporters and onlookers jostled with each other to get a closer glimpse of the one time fugitive who is custody on suspicion of murder.

Attired in jeans and a blue polo shirt instead of prison garb, Tommy made no comment as the security forces whisked him through the crowd. Dozens of police escorted Tommy back to police headquarters after his hour-long visit ended. Police had said they would only allow Tommy to visit his father if Mr. Suharto's condition turned critical. Head of the presidential medical team, Dr. Kunindro Dadi, told reporters that Mr. Suharto's spirits improved and his temperature dropped to a more normal level after his son's visit. The former president has been hospitalized since Monday evening after experiencing difficulty breathing due to pneumonia.

The former leader has suffered several strokes and been in ill health since massive protests and political upheaval forced him from office in 1998 after 32 years in power. Mr. Suharto, along with some of his six children, have been accused of illegally amassing a multi-billion dollar fortune during his rule. But official efforts to bring him to trial for corruption have failed. The Supreme Court said last week that Mr. Suharto would never stand trial because he is too ill and his health will never improve. However, Tommy Suharto was convicted of graft and ordered to serve an 18 month prison sentence in November 2000. But he went into hiding until his capture last month. Although the Supreme Court has overturned the graft conviction, police are currently questioning him about the murder of one of the judges who sentenced him and for possession of illegal firearms. Tommy Suharto's high profile legal troubles have captured the imagination of the public who are waiting to see if the government of Megawati Sukarnoputri has the conviction to confront the still powerful Suharto clan and begin to stamp out endemic graft in Indonesia.