IMAGE: Suharto in hospital
Didit Majalolo  /  AP
Former Indonesian President Suharto, accompanied by his daughter Siti Hardiyanti Rukmana, is wheeled out of a room at Pertamina Hospital in Jakarta on Tuesday.
By Associated Press Writer
updated 1/13/2008 4:56:38 AM ET 2008-01-13T09:56:38

Doctors said Sunday that Indonesia's former dictator Suharto was in "very critical condition" after suffering multi-organ failure, with his heart and lungs showing further decline. The 86-year-old's red blood cell level also dropped.

"He is now in very critical condition, worse than yesterday," said Marjo Subiandono, the chief presidential doctor. "Almost all of his organs have experienced a decline, especially his heart and lungs."

Doctors were trying to counter a drop in Suharto's red blood cell count through transfusion, Subiandono said.

Suharto's relatives said they would let doctors decide what measures to take if he deteriorated further, rather than insisting on life support, Subiandono said.

Suharto, whose 32-year regime was widely regarded as one of the 20th century's most brutal and graft-ridden, was hospitalized in critical condition a week ago with anemia and a low heart rate. He initially responded well to a blood transfusion and kidney dialysis, but his condition sharply deteriorated days later.

Doctors said Friday he had suffered organ failure and placed him on a ventilator after detecting signs of infection in his lungs.

Preparing for the worst, family members and friends rushed to his bedside, some reciting prayers and verses from the Quran.

Brutal dictatorship
The retired five-star general was ousted in 1998 amid massive student protests and nationwide riots, opening the way for democracy in this predominantly Muslim nation of 235 million people. He withdrew from public life, venturing from his comfortable villa on a leafy lane in the capital, Jakarta, only to attend family functions or for medical emergencies.

A series of strokes in recent years have left Suharto with permanent brain damage and impaired speech — keeping him from facing trial. He has been accused of overseeing a purge of more than half a million leftist opponents soon after seizing power in a 1965 coup. Hundreds of thousands more were killed or imprisoned in the decades that followed — crimes for which no one has ever been punished.

Transparency International says Suharto and his family also amassed billions of dollars in state funds, an allegation he has denied.

Among the stream of visitors at the hospital in recent days was Indonesian Attorney General Hendarman Supanji, who said the government wanted to settle a civil corruption case against Suharto, seeking $1.5 billion in damages and funds allegedly stolen from the state.

Lawyers representing the former strongman rejected the proposal and said it was not the proper time to discuss it.

$1.54 billion sought in corruption case
The suit seeks $1.54 billion in damages and missing money.

It alleges money was channeled from the Indonesian Central Bank through state-owned banks to a Suharto-headed fund called Yayasan Supersemar. The fund was said to finance education scholarships, but the cash was never accounted for.

Supanji said he told Suharto's eldest daughter, Siti Hardiyanti Rukmana, on Friday that the government wanted to offer an out-of-court settlement, which would prevent either side from being seen as winner or loser in the case.

Efforts to reach a deal in the past have failed.

"Such an offer, in this situation, is not proper — or ethical," said Mohammad Assegaf, one of Suharto's lawyers. "How can the family negotiate when they are concentrating on their father's health?"

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