Thousands of Indonesians gathered in Jakarta Thursday to bid their final goodbyes to former President B.J. Habibie.
President Joko Widodo led the mourners at the state funeral at Kalibata Heroes Memorial Park for Habibie, who died at an army hospital Wednesday of heart failure at the age of 83.
Habibie was a trained aerospace engineer who had been working in Germany for nearly two decades when then-President Suharto convinced him to come back home in 1974 and lead an effort to industrialize Indonesia's economy. In announcing his death Wednesday, President Widodo praised Habibie as the "father of Indonesian technology."
He rose through the ranks to become Suharto's vice president in 1998, and was sworn in as Indonesia's third president in May of that year after the Asian financial crisis sparked massive protests that forced the autocratic Suharto to step down after three decades in power.
Habibie ushered in a number of democratic reforms, including greater press freedoms and the release of political prisoners. He also allowed East Timor, the former Portuguese colony that Indonesia had ruled since 1975, to hold a referendum on their future. The East Timorese voted overwhelmingly for independence, which sparked a wave of deadly violence carried out by pro-Indonesian militias.
Habibie served just 17 months in office, withdrawing from the October 1999 presidential election amid the continuing protests.