- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 27, 2002

JAKARTA, Indonesia The playboy son of former dictator Suharto was convicted yesterday of ordering the murder of a Supreme Court justice and was sentenced to 15 years in prison in a case that symbolizes Indonesia's struggle to rein in judicial corruption and the abuses that defined the Suharto era.
A verdict like yesterday's would have been unthinkable during Suharto's 32-year reign, when the rich and powerful were almost always beyond the law's reach.
Advocates for judicial reform hope the ruling will put other former Suharto cronies on notice and possibly signal a more honest approach to doling out justice in a country widely perceived as among Asia's most corrupt.
Still, some Indonesians scoffed at the 15-year sentence for Hutomo Mandala Putra, better known as Tommy Suharto, saying the 40-year-old tycoon got off easy. His conviction for murder, illegal weapons possession and fleeing justice could have earned him a death sentence.
Critics note that the two men convicted of shooting Supreme Court Justice Syafiuddin Kartasasmita received life sentences.
"It hurts very much," declared Justice Kartasasmita's widow, Iwah Setyawati. "This sentence is not enough. I have lost my husband. I have lost everything."
The verdict yesterday was delivered during a 10-hour proceeding that was most notable for Tommy Suharto's absence from the courtroom. His attorneys tried unsuccessfully to postpone the verdict, saying it was unfair to proceed because their client was sick and unable to attend.
Doctors examined Tommy Suharto and confirmed that he had a stomachache. A packed courtroom burst into applause when presiding Judge Amiruddin Zakaria rejected the defense request for a delay and began reading the verdict.
The six-member defense team stormed out of the courtroom in protest.

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