JAKARTA, Sep 11 Time magazine will fight an Indonesian Supreme Court libel ruling in favo

 
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JAKARTA, Sep 11 (Reuters) Time magazine will fight an Indonesian Supreme Court libel ruling in favour of former President Suharto which ordered the US weekly to pay more than 100 million dollar in damages and print apologies, Time's lawyer said today.

''We will use all means available to challenge this decision,'' lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis told a news conference regarding the Supreme Court finding, which became public yesterday.

''What is at stake here is not only Time but also the freedom of the press,'' he said, adding that he and the magazinehad not been notified formally of the verdict.

Time, owned by Time Warner Inc, published a May 1999 cover story alleging Suharto and his family had amassed a fortune of around 15 billion dollar, including 9 billion dollar in an Austrian bank account.

Lubis said the court ruling was a setback for reform of the country's judiciary, rated by anti-graft watchdogs as one of the institutions most prone to corruption.

''All attempts to fight corruption are being demolished by this Supreme Court's judgment,'' he said.

Suharto first filed a lawsuit against Time in 1999, seeking 183 trillion rupiah in damages -- equivalent to 19.5 billion dollar at the current exchange rate.

The case was thrown out by the Jakarta district court in June 2000. Suharto then lodged an appeal with a higher court, which was turned down in March 2001. It is common for court cases to drag on for years in Indonesia.

Under Indonesian law, Time magazine lawyers may file for a case review, which requires new evidence to be submitted.

Suharto, 86, resigned in 1998 after 32 years in power. Critics say he and his family amassed billions during his rule, but the former president and members of his family have denied any wrongdoing.

Suharto was previously charged with graft but escaped prosecution when he was deemed too ill to stand trial.

Earlier this month, Indonesia's state prosecutors failed to reach an out-of-court settlement in a $1.5 billion lawsuit against Suharto as part of efforts to recover state funds allegedly misused by Suharto's charitable foundations.

REUTERS PJ AS1330

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