Indonesia Cancels Plans to Drop Corruption Charges Against Suharto

Indonesia's president said Friday he had abandoned a plan to drop corruption charges against ailing former dictator Suharto, citing what he said was public anger over the proposed move.

"The waves of opposing and supporting voices are getting higher and this could lead to conflict," Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told an early morning media conference. "I have chosen to shelve this problem ... until the right time."

CountryWatch: Indonesia

On Thursday, State Secretary Yusril Ihza Mahendra — appointed by Yudhoyono to investigate the Suharto case — said the government intended to drop charges against the 84-year-old, who is in hospital recovering from colon surgery, and take steps to "rehabilitate" his name.

Yudhoyono declined to take questions at the media conference.

Suharto was ousted after 32 years in 1998 amid student protests and nationwide riots.

In 2000, prosecutors charged him with embezzling US$600 million, but he never saw the inside of a court after his lawyers argued that a series of strokes had left him with irreparable brain damage.

In recent days, the plan to drop the case has been front page news in Indonesia and has drawn much editorial comment for and against the move, but there have been no street protests or threats of large demonstrations.

Mahendra was a former speechwriter for Suharto.

It remained unclear whether his comments regarding the plan to drop the case — widely reported in the local and international media — were the result of a miscommunication within the government, or a move to test public reaction to the proposal before announcing it.