Indonesian lawmakers mull Suharto pardon

(FILES) This file photo dated 05 July, 2
Former Indonesian dictator Suharto is shown in a 2005 file photo. Bay Ismoyo / AFP - Getty Images file

Indonesia’s president planned to confer Wednesday with top lawmakers over whether to drop corruption charges against former dictator Suharto because of his deteriorating health, a government official said.

Suharto, 84, was hospitalized over the past week for an operation to halt intestinal bleeding, prompting several leading officials to call for a pardon. It was the fourth time he was treated for the same ailment since May 2004.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono planned to hold talks Wednesday evening on the issue with a wide range of legal and political leaders, State Secretary Yusril Ihza Mahendra said.

Proceedings against Suharto have been stalled since 2000 due to his frail health. Prosecutors have charged him with embezzling $600 million during his rule.

Critics say Suharto, who ruled for 32 years until his ouster amid riots and pro-democracy protests in 1998, also should be charged in connection with 500,000 political killings during his regime, mostly communists and left-wing opponents.

Suharto still has many powerful allies in Indonesia’s political and military elite, and Yudhoyono is seen as unlikely to expend any political capital in pursuing Suharto’s case.

Yudhoyono was a former general in Suharto’s army and heads his former political party Golkar. Many other politicians and army officers who got rich during his rule remain in power.

Suharto, meanwhile, was recovering from an operation Sunday night which removed a 25-inch section of his intestines. The decision to carry out surgery despite his old age was taken after a colonoscopy earlier Sunday located several bleeding spots.

Suharto is also said to have suffered permanent brain damage and some speech loss from at least two strokes.