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September 13, 2000
IOC defends request over jailed IndonesianAndrew Gray
The International Olympic Committee on Tuesday defended a letter from its president asking for an Indonesian member in jail accused of multi-million dollar fraud to be allowed to travel to the Sydney Games.
But in Jakarta, the country's attorney-general Marzuki Darusman described the request as "strange" and accused the IOC of tarnishing the Olympic spirit by getting involved.
The IOC confirmed on Tuesday that Juan Antonio Samaranch had written to Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid earlier this year asking for Mohamad "Bob" Hasan, a timber tycoon and sports official detained in March to be able to attend the Games.
IOC leaders, meeting ahead of Friday's start to the Olympics, described the letter as "gentle" and said it was quite nomal for Samaranch to appeal for a member to be allowed to travel if he had not been convicted of any offence.
"It's entirely appropriate that the IOC try and help any member who may be being detained -- without having been convicted of anything -- (to attend) IOC meetings," IOC vice-president Dick Pound of Canada told reporters.
"He's not a criminal," he added. "If he's convicted as a criminal -- different story."
But Darusman said: "How could the spirit of the Olympics get mixed up in this case? We will not let Bob Hasan go to Sydney because he is under a legal probe."
Hasan is due to go on trial next week, accused of causing losses to the Indonesian state worth $75.5 million over a forestry-mapping project. He denies any wrongdoing.
Hasan is a close associate of former Indonesian President Suharto who ruled the country with an iron fist for three decades. Suharto himself has been charged with corruption in connection with charities he controlled while in office.
But both Pound and IOC director-general Franois Carrard said Samaranch was quite within his rights to send the letter without consulting its ruling executive board. It was unrealistic for him to consult every time he sent a letter, Carrard suggested.
"This is a perfectly normal letter by the IOC president, within his authority," Carrard said. "He did not have to submit it to the executive board."
The IOC released the text of the letter, sent on April 26, in which Samaranch outlines Hasan's roles in the sporting world and says the IOC expects Indonesia to send a strong team to Sydney.
"Your continued support for the development of sport and Olympism in Indonesia and to the volunteer officials involved in sport would be highly appreciated," he tells the president.
"It's a gentle letter," Pound said, adding: "I would hardly describe that as vigorous lobbying."
Tuesday's events follow last week's decision by Australia to ban Uzbekistan boxing official Gafur Rakhimov and basketball official Carl Ching of Hong Kong from the Sydney Games for security reasons.
Samaranch wrote to Australian Prime Minister John Howard asking for an explanation and expressing serious concern, but later accepted the decision.
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