A leading candidate in the Indonesian presidential race has admitted he helped abduct activists during the rule of the country's former president, Suharto, saying he was under orders and that the kidnappings were legal.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Prabowo Subianto, a son-in-law of Suharto, says the kidnappings in 1998 were done out of honour while he was a general in the country's special forces. Some of those kidnapped have never been found.

"I carried out operations that were legal at the time. If a new government said I was at fault I was here to take full responsibility," he told Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen.

The former general has been accused of abducting political activists in 1998 just before the fall of Suharto who then had served 32 years in office.

While most of them were released, 13 have never returned. Prabowo was dismissed from the army after evidence showed he had ordered the kidnappings but he has always denied that he was involved in the disappearances.

Several activists who were kidnapped are now working for his party, Gerindra.

Prabowo's candidacy for the presidency has been controversial not only because of the human rights allegations. During the campaign he was quoted saying that direct elections are a product of the West and not suitable for Indonesia.

In the interview with Al Jazeera, however, he firmly rejects any concerns that he would abolish democracy.

Prabowo claims he won the July 9 presidential election. His rival, Jakarta’s governor Joko Widodo, also claimed victory after results of seven quick-count institutions showed he beat Prabowo by about five percentage points.

Official results will be announced on July 22.

Source: Al Jazeera