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Attorney Doubts Overturning Verdict

July 28, 2002

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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ An attorney for the son of Indonesia’s ex-dictator confirmed Sunday he would appeal his client’s murder conviction but conceded it will be difficult to overturn.

Elza Syarief said the Indonesian court system appeared set on putting Hutomo Mandala Putra _ the rich playboy better known as Tommy _ behind bars.

``It seems to me that, whatever happens, Tommy must go to jail,″ Syarief told The Associated Press. ``This is not fair. It will be difficult for us to win this case on appeal. But we will do our best.″

Tommy was convicted and sentenced Friday to 15 years for paying two hit men to murder Supreme Court Justice Syafiuddin Kartasasmita. The judge had sentenced him to 18 months in prison in 2000 in a real estate scam.

Advocates for judicial reform in Indonesia _ including a U.N. legal expert who visited here last week _ welcomed the verdict as a sign the country is beginning to fix its notoriously corrupt legal system.

The verdict came after a hectic day, in which Tommy failed to appear at his own trial because he said he was sick. The five-judge panel read the verdict anyway, prompting Tommy’s attorneys to storm out in protest. Ten hours later, the judges announced the guilty verdict.

Court officials reportedly went to Cipinian prison Friday night to deliver the ruling to Tommy. The billionaire _ whose estimated worth is $800 million _ is being held in a spaciously furnished, air conditioned cell, according to The Jakarta Post.

Syarief said she had not yet talked to Tommy about the verdict. But she complained that the five-judge panel ignored the facts in finding Tommy guilty of murder, illegal weapons possession and fleeing justice.

She said during the trial that Tommy had no motive to the kill the judge and didn’t know the shooters. She also said Tommy had an alibi, that he was in West Java at the time of the shooting.

``We are very disappointed with this decision,″ said Syarief, who was accused by police during the trial of bribing three witnesses.

Judge Amiruddin Zakaria_ who presided over the case_ insisted on Saturday that the judges went out of their way to treat Tommy like any other defendant. And he stood by the sentence.

``We ran the trial based on the law,″ he told The Associated Press. ``We never notice who the defendant is or whether they are rich or poor. The verdict is appropriate for him. He deserves it.″

Despite Tommy’s history, Zakaria said has not taken any precautions. He said he felt safe and insisted his family was fine.

Police spokesman Edward Aritonang said Sunday they have increased security around the jail where Tommy is staying.

The last time Tommy was handed a legal setback, he decided to run rather than report to prosecutors to begin his sentence.

While on the run, he was accused by former president Abdurrahman Wahid of a string of bombings that rocked Jakarta as well as sowing unrest in some of the provinces.

Update hourly