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Tommy Suharto Trial Resumes - 2002-03-27

The trial against Indonesia's Tommy Suharto, the son of the former president, resumed in Jakarta on Wednesday. Arguments focused on whether Mr. Suharto owned the weapons used in the murder of a Supreme Court judge.

Tommy Suharto denied a witness's claim that a cache of weapons allegedly found at his home belonged to him. Linking the guns to him is a key element of the prosecution's case.

The youngest son of Indonesia's former president, Mr. Suharto is facing possible life sentence if convicted of masterminding the murder of a Supreme Court judge last July. He is alleged to have paid four gunmen to kill the judge, with weapons he provided himself.

Justice Syafuddin Kartasasmita had previously sentenced Mr. Suharto to 18 months in prison for his part in a multi-million dollar corruption scandal. After the verdict came out, Mr. Suharto went into hiding and managed to evade capture for more than a year.

While he was on the run, Mr. Suharto's conviction in the graft case was overturned. By then, police has linked him to the murder of Justice Kartasasmita. He was apprehended by authorities last November.

Mr. Suharto denies that any involvement in the murder.

The trial of Mr. Suharto would have been almost unthinkable just a few years ago. During the more than three decades rule of his father, he and his family were considered "untouchable." Many Indonesians believe all six of the Suharto children used their father's influence to build business empires. Mr. Suharto is the first member of the family to be put on trial.

Although he spoke in court, Mr. Suharto is not expected to formally testify in the high-profile case. The case is seen by many to be a test for President Megawati Sukarnoputri, who promised to strengthen Indonesia's legal system, which in the past generally overlooked the alleged wrongdoings of the Suharto clan.

The presiding judge at the Suharto trial also announced today that two more judges would be added to the panel hearing the case. That brings the total to five. The judges did not elaborate on what prompted the move.