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Tommy Suharto Sentence Seen as Too Lenient - 2002-07-15

Indonesian prosecutors have asked judges to sentence the son of former President Suharto to 15 years in prison if he is convicted of murdering a judge. Some legal groups say they are surprised that prosecutors are being so lenient.

Prosecutors say they decided against demanding a harsher sentence against Hutomo Mandala Putra, known as Tommy Suharto. Prosecutors say he is young and has a family to support. They also say he has been well-behaved in court. Mr. Suharto is accused of ordering the murder of a Supreme Court judge, a crime that carries a maximum sentence of death. A verdict is expected to be handed down in about a month. But some legal experts in Jakarta expressed dismay the prosecutors' recommendation.

Andi Mallarengeng, from the Partnership for Governance Reform in Indonesia, says he thinks the requested sentence is too light. He also is unsure whether the case will result in a conviction because of the power still held by the Suharto family. "People have some hope that maybe this time, it would be different," he said. "But then people are skeptical. Just like me, I have my hope that somehow that court system, justice system is starting to work. But we are skeptical." Most of the former president's children control companies or hold powerful jobs.

Tommy Suharto is accused of masterminding the murder of Justice Syafiuddin Kartasasmita in July 2000. The justice had sentenced Mr. Suharto to 18 months in prison for corruption, but that conviction was later overturned. Mr. Suharto's trial is seen by many as a test of Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri. She came to power in part on pledges to strengthen Indonesia's judicial system, which most observers say is corrupt. Mr. Suharto fled after his graft conviction in 2000 and eluded authorities for more than a year. Analysts think it is likely he had the assistance of corrupt members of Indonesia's police or armed forces.