Indonesia's Suharto dies

Critically ill former president passes away at Jakarta hospital, aged 86.

    Opinion on Suharto's three-decade-long rule
    remains divided in Indonesia [EPA]

    Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesia's current president, said on local radio: "On behalf of this country, the people, the government and me personally, I would like to say our deep condolences on the death of Mr Haji Muhammad Suharto and I call on all the people of Indonesia to pray for him."

    Al Jazeera's Step Vaessen, reporting from Jakarta, said that sympathy was growing for Suharto during his illness.

    She said: "He will be given a state funeral, and many people here seem to have forgotten all his mistakes."

    Suharto's body has been taken to his house in Jakarta where dignitaries were waiting to pay their respects, local media reported.

    Appeal for forgiveness
    Hundreds of people packed the sides of the street, which has been closed to traffic since news of his death became public.
    A seven-day national mourning has been ordered.

    Suharto's condition had deteriorated overnight, prompting his six children to gather at his bedside at Jakarta's Pertamina hospital, one of his close aides said.


    Video: Feared by many
    Pictures: A three-decade rule

    "We, the whole family, thank everyone who has prayed for our father," Suharto's eldest daughter Siti Hadijanti Rukmana, also known as Tutut, said sobbing as she addressed a press conference at the hospital.

    "We ask that if he had any faults, please forgive them ... may he be absolved of all his mistakes."

    Mardjo Soebiandono, the head of the medical team who had treated Suharto, told the press conference that Suharto had "peacefully passed away" at 13.10 local time (0610 GMT).

    Suharto, who led a government widely regarded as one of the 20th century's most brutal and corrupt, had lived a reclusive life in a comfortable villa in downtown Jakarta for the past decade.

    He had been in and out of hospital several times since being toppled by a pro-democracy uprising during the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis for heart problems and internal bleeding.

    Opinion on his rule remains divided in Indonesia.

    Communists massacred

    Historians say up to 800,000 alleged communist sympathisers were killed during Suharto's rise to power from 1965 to 1968. His troops killed another 300,000 in military operations against independence movements in Papua, Aceh and East Timor.

    Suharto's poor health has kept him from facing trial, and no one has been punished for the killings.

    Juan Felix Tampubolon, a former lawyer for Suharto, said it was doubtful that criminal proceedings will be launched against the former leader.

    He told Al Jazeera: "According to Indonesian law, once a person has died, there would be no more legal action put forward against the person."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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