Suharto’s son-in-law pleads innocence

Lt-Gen Prabowo says there is no evidence linking him to the Christmas bombings. He believes he is being made a political scapegoat.

The son-in-law of former president Suharto, claiming to be a victim of “character assassination”, yesterday denied allegations of being involved in the bloody Christmas bombings.

Retired lieutenant general Prabowo Subianto, who once headed the elite Special Force (Kopassus), said police had yet to find any evidence linking him to the nationwide bomb attacks that killed 18 people and maimed more than 100.

“It is not accurate to say that I was involved,” he told reporters. “I do not support terrorist acts, which is what these bombings are. I consider them to be morally repulsive.”

His denial of any wrongdoing follows an interview in Newsweek magazine in which President Abdurrahman Wahid claimed that Lt-Gen Prabowo and former army chief General Hartono were named in a police report for being involved in the attacks.

Gen Hartono, who served in Mr Suharto’s Cabinet, has also brushed aside suggestions of being involved in an attack that Mr Abdurrahman believes is aimed at undermining his fragile government.

Observers, while discounting Lt-Gen Prabowo’s complicity, continue to have Gen Hartono, among other disgruntled officers, on their radar screens given his links to the former first family and long-time hostility to the President.

But police and the palace have sought to downplay the issue of former generals being key suspects and are now pinning the blame on the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM). Police named eight suspects on Tuesday.

Lt-Gen Prabowo agreed that he was in Jakarta when the bombs went off on Dec 24. But he had been fast asleep in his residence in the plush Menteng district, not in the field sponsoring the synchronised attacks, he said.

His family members, several of whom are Christians, were attending a church service then.

“Why should I sponsor something that would harm my own family?” he said. “It makes no sense.” Lt-Gen Prabowo said he was being made a scapegoat.

“There is a campaign to destabilise Indonesia. In that campaign, there is a need to find a scapegoat. I don’t know why I am always targeted to be one,” he said.

“I am being blamed for everything that happens in my county. When Islamic clerics are killed in East Java, foreigners murdered in Atambua or bombs go off in Indonesia, the finger points to me. What next? If a cat goes missing in this country, am I to take the blame for it as well?”

Speaking to The Straits Times later, he pointed out that there were groups still trying very hard to discredit him despite the fact that he was no longer an active player in the political scene. But he did not reveal who they were.

“It is better that way, rather than making the situation worse,” he said.

Sources said there were still elements within and outside the army that had an axe to grind against him.

Noted a Prabowo loyalist: “It is a case of the real thief calling another man a thief.’

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