Suharto Said to be in 'Serious Condition'

Indonesia's president said ex-dictator Suharto was in "serious condition" after visiting him in the hospital Friday.

Suharto, who was ousted after 32 years in power in 1998 amid nationwide riots and student protests, underwent surgery two weeks ago to stem intestinal bleeding.

Doctors said tests Thursday revealed sharp deterioration in the tissues of his brain. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visited Suharto, whose regime was widely regarded as one of most corrupt and brutal of the 20th century, for about 20 minutes early Friday.

He told reporters it was his "moral duty" to do so.

"I have done the same for all senior government officials, including former presidents and vice presidents, when they were sick," Yudhoyono said. "And he is seriously ill ... he's in serious condition."


Suharto, 84, still has many powerful supporters in the government, parliament and military. The country's attorney general last week agreed to drop corruption charges against him.

The former strongman was indicted in 2000 on allegations of embezzling $600 million. But Suharto's lawyers argued successfully for years that a series of strokes had left him with irreparable brain damage and that he was not fit to stand trial.

Doctors said Thursday's tests showed that Suharto's condition has sharply deteriorated in the last year.

"His brain functions have declined," neurologist Dr. Yusuf Misbach was quoted as saying by the official news agency Antara.

"After suffering from strokes, his brain tissues have shrunk, and now it gets more visibly obvious," he said. "The hollow space in his brain has become wider."

Earlier, Suharto's doctors said tests revealed two blockages in his brain, but Misbach but did not elaborate on those results.

The decision to drop charges has provoked criticism and rowdy but small street protests.

Fifty student demonstrators rallied in the city of Yogyakarta on Friday, chanting "Hang Suharto" and "Try him!" Protests were also scheduled in the capital Jakarta later in the day and over the weekend.