Time challenging Indonesia court ruling on Suharto

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JAKARTA, Oct 11 (Reuters) Time magazine said it will ask Indonesia's top court to review a libel ruling in favour of former President Suharto that ordered the US weekly to pay more than 0 million in damages and to print apologies.

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 dollars, including 9 billion dollars in an Austrian bank account.

''We are extremely disappointed with the Indonesian Supreme Court's decision. Time will use every avenue available to fight for the defence of press freedoms. We will challenge this judgment by filing with the Court a petition for review,'' the magazine said in a statement.

''In reversing the previous decisions and awarding former President Suharto an unprecedented sum of money, the Supreme Court gave little rationale for either the ruling itself or the amount of the damages.'' Time magazine won two appeals in lower courts, but last month the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Suharto and ordered the magazine to pay damages.

In the 1999 story ''Suharto Inc'', Time wrote that a four-month investigation by its correspondents covering 11 countries found six of Suharto's children owned significant stakes in at least 564 companies in Indonesia, and their overseas interests included hundreds of other firms from the United States to Uzbekistan.

Suharto's salary was only 1,764 dollars a month when he left office, the magazine said.

Suharto first filed a lawsuit against Time in 1999, seeking 183 trillion rupiah in damages - equivalent to 20.18 billion dollars.

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.

REUTERS ARB KP1320

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