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Indonesia's highest court has ordered "Time" magazine to pay former President Suharto more than $100 million in damages for a story that accused him and his family of amassing billions during his rule, report the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF).

"Time" must pay 1 trillion Indonesian Rupiahs (US$106 million) in damages and publish an apology in national and international papers for a May 1999 cover story in its Asian edition on the fortune of former President Suharto and his family, officials announced last week.

AJI strongly condemned the Supreme Court ruling, calling it "a direct threat" of the judiciary to press freedom and the public's right to information, which could also "send national mass media into bankruptcy."

The 24 May 1999 story "Suharto Inc.: All in the Family" alleged that Suharto and his children amassed $73 billion during his 32-year reign, but lost much of it during the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

Suharto, who has also been accused of widespread rights abuses and corruption but has never been brought to trial, filed a lawsuit with the Central Jakarta District Court and later the Jakarta High Court, both of which ruled in the magazine's favour.

Although the Supreme Court is Indonesia's highest, one final appeal is possible. Last week "Time" vowed to fight the ruling.

The Supreme Court's judges include a retired general who was in active service under Suharto. "It is disgraceful that Suharto is still able to exert so much power on the governing bodies of Indonesia," says IFJ.

The former dictator, now 86, seized power in a 1965 coup that left up to half a million people dead and ruled the country with an iron fist for the next three decades, killing or imprisoning hundreds of thousands of political opponents.

Visit these links:
- AJI:
- IFJ:
- RSF:
- "Suharto Inc.":
(18 September 2007)

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