Suharto’s son pleads for Gus Dur to pardon him

Showing the pressure they are under, Hutomo’s lawyers give contradictory statements on whether his plea for clemency is an admission of guilt

The youngest son of former President Suharto yesterday pleaded for a presidential pardon in what his lawyers acknowledged was a “tactical” move to avoid being jailed.

Mr Nudirman Munir, a member of the defence team for businessman Hutomo “Tommy” Mandala Putra, said there “was no other choice but to ask for clemency at this stage”.

He hoped it could buy Hutomo more time to seek a retrial at which he would seek to overturn last week’s Supreme Court decision to jail him for 18 months for corruption.

“To be honest, I see very little chance of the President pardoning my client,” he told The Straits Times.

“The script is very clear. This government wants him to go to jail. So, given the political pressures he is facing, he had to ask for clemency.”

But Mr Nudirman pointed out that seeking a pardon was not an admission that his client was involved in the US$11-million (S$18.7-million) land scam.

He maintained that Hutomo continued to maintain his innocence.

Another lawyer in the team, Mr Bob Nasution, when asked if the clemency appeal meant that Hutomo had admitted his guilt, replied: “Obviously.

“If he had not admitted his guilt, he would not have asked for clemency.”

Observers believe that Mr Nasution’s comments underscored differences among Hutomo’s lawyers on how to respond to growing pressures to have Mr Suharto’s son put in cell.

Mr Nasution disclosed that Hutomo was seeking to have dropped a ruling which required him to pay 30 billion rupiah (S$6 million) in compensation to the state.

While his lawyers fought the public-relations battle, their client said little. He arrived at the South Jakarta’s District-Attorney’s office yesterday morning with his lawyers after receiving a second summons.

He ignored a first summons to meet prosecutors on Monday, before being taken into custody.

Emerging, flanked by bodyguards and police, all he would say to questions was: “Let’s wait and see.” When asked what he would do if President Abdurrahman Wahid refused to grant him a pardon, he added: “I am not talking ifs.”

Mr Antasari Achar of the District-Attorney’s office, said yesterday that it had yet to make a decision on whether to jail Hutomo.

“We are waiting for a decision whether his request will be granted,” he said, adding that Hutomo had, at the meeting, admitted that losses incurred by the state were due to his negligence.

At his trial, the prosecution argued that the national logistics agency, Bulog, suffered losses after he and business partner Ricardo Galael took over prime land it owned in Kelapa Gading and later built a retail superstore there.

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