Suharto heirs appeal to sharia law
The legal battle involving the children of Indonesia's late ruler Suharto has taken on a religious tint, with the heirs arguing that sharia law frees them from any obligations arising from the case.
After Suharto died on January 27, prosecutors named his children as heirs to their father's legal case relating to the alleged diversion of funds from his charitable foundation.
On Tuesday, the Suharto children's lawyer, Juan Felix Tampubolon, asked the court to hear testimony from Busthanul Arifin, an expert on Islamic law and the former deputy chairman for religious court affairs at the Supreme Court.
Mr Busthanul, now a legal adviser to the minister of religious affairs, argued that based on Islamic law, heirs of the deceased are only obliged to take care of the burial of the body, resolve outstanding debts and credits, execute the will, and disburse any inherited wealth. 'A civil case is not included as part of what is bequeathed,' he said in a document obtained by Tempo magazine.
However, Yudian Wahyudi, a lecturer at the State Institute of Islamic Studies' sharia faculty, said that if Suharto was found to owe money to the state, then the heirs should pay it.
'In Islam, heirs cannot be punished for their parents' mistakes, but they have to pay their debts with the inherited assets,' he said.
'This means that they could not go to jail if Suharto committed crimes and that they cannot be asked to use their own funds to pay for their father's debts. But they must pay the debt if they inherited enough assets and money to cover it.'
There is no public information regarding the value of Suharto's bequests to his children.
According to civil law, if the court finds Suharto guilty, his children will be held responsible for paying any compensation to the state. The verdict is expected on March 27.