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Indonesia's man in the middle

March 30, the attorney general is due to bring in Suharto himself to face questions on his assets.

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He served Golkar, the party of fallen ruler Suharto, for 23 years. But when Suharto named him to lead the nation's first human rights commission, rights activists viewed him as a credible choice.

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When Suharto's protg and former president B.J. Habibie fought to stay in power last year, Marzuki led the Golkar faction that turned its back on the Suharto legacy and helped make Mr. Wahid Indonesia's first democratically elected leader in more than 40 years. He's now seen as a possible president of the future - if he can get results in his present job.

Nevertheless, the lack of fast results has begun to cost him allies.

"We understand Marzuki has a very difficult job," says Rosita Noer, secretary of the government's commission into military abuses in Aceh. "But if you can't overcome the opposition from within the government, then you're maintaining the tradition of empty promises."

Rights activists accuse the military of continuing to run death squads in the restive province, which has an armed independence movement.

To be sure, Marzuki says now is the time when all of his efforts will shift into high gear. He blames much of the slow progress to date on General Wiranto - the former coordinating security minister and personal adjutant of Suharto's, and who a government human rights team says is culpable for rights abuses by the military in East Timor.

Mr. Wiranto was suspended from the Cabinet in February, and Marzuki feels he now has a much freer hand.

"We're only just getting started," Marzuki says. "The original Cabinet lineup was in the way."

Recently, he's begun to deliver. On March 30, Suharto is due for questioning over a series of foundations he controls that, Marzuki says, hold about $600 million in assets.

On March 28, Marzuki succeeded in arresting one of Suharto's oldest friends and business partners, former trade minister Mohammad "Bob" Hasan. Mr. Hasan, a timber tycoon, amassed a huge fortune under Suharto, and enjoyed a monopoly over one of the most lucrative businesses in Indonesia.

It was quite a coup for Marzuki, because Hasan, and a number of other Suharto associates, had been viewed as untouchable until now.

"We need to put a stop to this myth that Suharto and his associates are above the law," Marzuki says.

Next week, he's scheduled to throw himself into his toughest battle yet. On April 5, 23 soldiers are scheduled to go on trial in Aceh's provincial capital for the suspected massacre of a Muslim teacher and 61 of his followers in July of last year.

Successful prosecutions are seen by Marzuki and others as the crucial step in winning back the hearts of the Acehnese, who have suffered at the hands of the military for more than two decades.

Though the military has not been cooperative - Marzuki says it appears to be hiding an officer, Lt. Col. Sudjono, who could provide the link between the actions of the soldiers and the orders of their superiors - he says he's optimistic about the prosecution.

Others aren't sure. Noer of the Aceh commission says she expects the trial will be postponed once more.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society