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ARKIB : 07/04/2001

Ex-Suharto minister arrested in hospital ward for corruption

FORMER top economic minister under former Indonesian president Suharto, Ginanjar Kartsasmita (C), smiles as he enters the Attorney General building in Jakarta, April 6. - AFPpix.

JAKARTA April 6 - A former top economics minister under former Indonesian president Suharto was arrested Friday in his hospital ward on charges of corruption, witnesses said.

Prosecutors later took Ginanjar Kartasasmita, who served several cabinet posts under both Suharto and his successor B.J Habibie, to the detention centre of the attorney general's office.

The arrest is valid for 20 days and can be extended for another 30 days if warranted, the attorney general's office spokesman Mulyoharjo said.

Kartasasmita insisted he was innocent and charged his arrest was politically motivated.

``There's been political intervention. There have been orders for arrests from the president,'' he told journalists at the hospital.

``Since the beginning I have been the target of this operation and I believe I'm a political detainee,'' he added.

Late last month prosecutors served an arrest warrant on Kartasasmita at his hospital bedside, but his detention was delayed as he was being treated for stomach problems. He has undergone endoscopic tests.

Mulyoharjo said Kartasasmita's health during his detention would be monitored by doctors assigned by the attorney general's office.

Lawyer Muhammad Assegaf said although Kartasasmita was allowed to leave hospital he needed three days more to fully recover.

Kartasasmita, now a deputy speaker of the national assembly, has challenged the first warrant and sued the attorney general's office for wrongful arrest.

He has been officially named a suspect in a case in the early 1990s involving PT Ustraindo Petro Gas, a company owned by one of Suharto's sons, Bambang Trihatmojo, and the state oil and gas monopoly, Pertamina.

The scandal caused US$24.8 million in losses to the state, prosecutors said.

Investigators have said that while Kartasasmita was minister for mines and energy, Pertamina paid the costs of oil development incurred by Ustraindo in four oil fields, although the contracts required the company to cover them.

The state lost US$18 million.

In addition they claim the terms of the government-company production sharing contract were changed in the company's favour, causing additional losses to the state.

Kartasasmita, a retired airforce marshal, is credited with negotiating a massive US$46-billion bailout with the IMF after Suharto's fall in 1998 when the Indonesian economy collapsed under the Asian financial crisis.

Earlier on Friday, President Abdurrahman Wahid said he had ordered Attorney General Marzuki Darusman to arrest two more people on charges of corruption, but did not name the accused.

``I told him last night to arrest one person on the 15th at the latest and another on the 21st because there's enough evidence,'' Wahid told Muslim worshippers after Friday prayers.

Wahid, who is fighting a parliamentary move to unseat him, said the order to arrest the duo was to keep an earlier promise to arrest three people for alleged corruption.

The local press have speculated that Wahid is planning to prosecute a businessman MP and another former minister, also on charges of past corruption.

Wahid himself has been fending off charges in parliament that he was involved in two multi-million dollar corruption scandals.

The charges prompted the parliament to issue a censure motion against Wahid in February, which if followed through could pave the way for impeachment proceedings in four months time.

Suharto is also facing charges of embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars during his 32-year rule, but has so far escaped trial on the grounds of ill health.

On the communal warring front, at least 12 people were killed during two days of separatist and ethnic violence in two Indonesian provinces, police and rights activists said Friday.

In central Kalimantan province on Borneo island, an indigenous Dayak mob armed with spears and daggers killed three policemen about 40 kilometres west of Sampit town, local health official Komarudin Sukemi said. One Dayak attacker was also shot dead, he added.

In Pangkalan Bun, also in Central Kalimantan, Dayaks killed a Madurese settler, police said.

At least 500 people have died in ethnic violence in the province since mid-February. Most of the dead have been Madurese migrants and their descendants.

Meanwhile in Aceh province, two pro-independence guerrillas Thursday threw a grenade at a military patrol, killing a passer-by. At least 11 people, including two soldiers, were wounded, police Capt. Abdi Darmawan said. In a neighbouring district, government forces shot dead a rebel in a clash.

Aid worker Sulaiman Kater said four people had also died in separate incidents in the east of the region.

In the provincial capital Banda Aceh, a student died in hospital on Thursday. He was found unconscious with torture wounds a day earlier, the local Serambi daily reported.

Rebels have been fighting for independence of their homeland on the northern tip of Sumatra Island for the past 25 years. At least 6,000 people - mainly civilians - have been killed in the past decade. - AFP

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