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Former Indonesian dictator Suharto suffers organ failure; family rushes to bedside
Indonesia Suharto J 5149702
Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra, the youngest son of former Indonesian President Suharto is mobbed by journalists upon arrival to visit his father at Pertamina Hospital in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday, Jan. 11, 2008. Doctors caring for the former dictator said Friday his lungs showed the dangerous, early signs of infection, as a small group of protesters gathered in front of the hospital demanding he be held accountable for abuses carried out during his 32-year reign. - photo by Associated Press
    JAKARTA, Indonesia — The former Indonesian dictator Suharto suffered organ failure Friday and was placed on a ventilator, losing consciousness as his family rushed to his bedside, some praying and reciting verses from the Quran.
    Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari said she was pessimistic, telling El-Shinta radio the ventilator was a ‘‘last attempt’’ by doctors to keep him alive. ‘‘I don’t think it will help,’’ she said.
    Suharto, 86, was hospitalized in critical condition one week ago with anemia and a low heart rate. After initially responding well to a blood transfusion and kidney dialysis, his condition sharply deteriorated. Physicians on Friday described his health as ‘‘alarming.’’
    Suharto, whose regime was widely regarded as one of the 20th century’s most brutal and corrupt, was ousted in 1998 amid massive student protests and nationwide riots, opening the way for democracy in this predominantly Muslim nation of 235 million people.
    The retired five-star general withdrew from public life, venturing from his comfortable villa on a leafy lane in the capital only to attend family functions or for medical emergencies.
    A series of strokes in recent years have left Suharto with permanent brain damage and impaired speech — keeping him from facing trial. He has been accused of overseeing a purge of more than a half-million leftist opponents soon after seizing power in a 1965 coup. Hundreds of thousands more were killed or imprisoned in the decades that followed — crimes for which no one has ever been punished.
    Transparency International says Suharto and his family also amassed billions of dollars in state funds — an allegation he has denied.
    On Friday, Suharto suffered failure of multiple organs and was placed on a ventilator after his breathing became fast and shallow, said Marjo Subiandono, the chief presidential doctor.
    Relatives who have camped out all week in nearby rooms rushed through the ward to be at his side. A close aide to the family said they began praying and reciting verses from the Quran. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
    ‘‘Without machines he would be finished,’’ said Otto Cornelis Kaligis, a lawyer for the former strongman, after emerging from the hospital room. ‘‘He is strong, but his body functions just aren’t working.’’
    Victims and relatives of those who died gathered outside the hospital Friday, some carrying banners that said ‘‘Bring Suharto to Justice!’’
    ‘‘His illness should give momentum to the human rights commission, legislators, the president and the attorney general to investigate all the abuses for which he was responsible,’’ said Sumarsih, whose daughter Wawan was killed by troops during a 1998 anti-Suharto protest. Like many Indonesians, she has only one name.
    ‘‘He is sick, and people can forgive him for humanitarian reasons if they want to, but they should not forget our grief.’’
    Effendi Saleh, 68, agreed. He said he was imprisoned without trial from 1969 until 1979 after being accused of having ties to the Communist party, a charge he denied. He was employed by Unilever Indonesia at the time, and acknowledged only that he had been a labor activist.
    ‘‘I’m sorry (Suharto) is sick, but I can’t forgive him,’’ said Saleh. ‘‘I suffered for many, many years. Someone has to be held accountable.’’
    Security was increased around his residence in Jakarta.
    Suharto has received a steady stream of visits by high-profile officials in the last week, including President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono — now in Malaysia — Cabinet ministers and Muslim clerics, a sign of his continuing influence over the ruling elite.
    Vice President Jusuf Kalla showed up at the hospital late Friday after receiving word about Suharto’s deteriorating health. Try Sutrisno, who served as vice president under Suharto, also came.

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