Subject: Wiranto: Rights Abuse Allegations a Ploy to Discredit Presidential Bid

Wiranto Says Rights Abuse Allegations a Ploy to Discredit Presidential Bid

JAKARTA, June 13 (AP): Indonesia's former military chief, indicted on war crime charges in East Timor, told supporters on Sunday that the allegations had been fabricated to discredit his bid for the presidency in next month's election.

Gen. (ret) Wiranto, presidential nominee of the Golkar Party, has struggled to attract support, in part because he was indicted by U.N.-backed prosecutors in East Timor for rights abuses committed by Indonesian troops in 1999, when he was the nation's military commander.

Indonesia will hold its first-ever direct presidential election on July 5. Previously, lawmakers chose the head of state.

"There are efforts from several groups to discredit me as a presidential candidate. These allegations have not been proven. They are false," Wiranto said Sunday at a campaign rally that only half-filled Jakarta's Bung Karno Stadium.

The karaoke-loving general also belted out songs, while supporters shouted, "Wiranto for president!"

Siti Salihah, a 42-year-old housewife attending the rally with a yellow headscarf, the color of the party, said: "He's clean. He was only doing his duty."

Wiranto is also fighting off criticism of his alleged role in army-led attacks on student protesters following former Indonesian dictator Soeharto's ouster in 1998.

Last week, retired general Kivlan Zein claimed that Wiranto led a covert effort to recruit, arm and pay criminal gangs to break up student demonstrations in front of the national Parliament in 1998.

At least 10 people died in the ensuing clashes. Wiranto denies any wrongdoing.

Latest opinion surveys of likely voters show that former security minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is still the clear election front-runner, polling close to 50 percent. President Megawati Sukarnoputri trails with about 11 percent, while Wiranto's support has risen slightly to about 10 percent.


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