Subject: Prabowo says Conscience Clear On Abuse

Indonesia Presidential Hopeful Says Conscience Clear On Abuse

Friday February 20th, 2009 / 12h38

JAKARTA (AFP)--A former son-in-law of Indonesian dictator Suharto who is running for president said Friday his "conscience is clear" over human rights abuses he committed as a senior army general.

Prabowo Subianto, a former commander of the notorious Kopassus special forces, told foreign reporters he was unrepentant over the kidnapping of pro-democracy activists in the dying days of Suharto's regime.

"In a certain administration we could say it was preventative detention, and if the regime changes, then we say it's kidnapping," said Prabowo, who is running in a July poll against opponents including incumbent President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, also an ex-general.

"I served with honor, my conscience is clear, I took responsibility. I consider myself a warrior, I consider myself an officer," he said.

Prabowo, once considered heir apparent to Suharto before the 1998 fall of his 32-year regime, was found guilty by a court of honor of "exceeding orders" and forced to retire over his confessed role in the kidnappings, over a dozen victims of which were never seen again.

He also stands accused of involvement in human rights abuses in East Timor, then under a brutal 24-year Indonesian occupation, and of orchestrating riots and mass rapes of Chinese women in Jakarta in 1998.

Prabowo has denied these accusations but said he remains barred from traveling to the United States since first being refused entry on human rights grounds in 2000.

Despite the reputation, Prabowo said he is a committed democrat and is pinning his hopes of unseating the liberal Yudhoyono on a platform of reining in the free market and overcoming poverty by promoting agriculture.

Indonesia faces a "Malthusian bomb" of a surging population but the pro-market Yudhoyono has failed to reach the "double digit" growth necessary to lift the country out of poverty, Prabowo said.

Indonesia's economy grew 6.1% last year but growth is expected to slow to between 4.5% and 4.7% in 2009 on the effects of the global economic crisis.

Prabowo was married to Suharto's daughter Siti Hediati Hariyadi, who goes by the name Titiek, but they divorced some years ago.

Friday February 20th, 2009 / 12h38

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