Former Indonesian minister gets seven years in prison for graft

Indonesia's anti-graft court today sentenced the former minister of maritime and fishery affairs  to seven years in prison for his role in a graft case.


In a courtroom packed by religious leaders and politicians, a panel of judges found Rokhmin Dahuri guilty of ordering his subordinates to illegally collect 11.4 billion rupiah (1.26 million dollars) from fishery offices across the country.
Dahuri, the prime suspect in the case, was accused of violating anti-graft laws by receiving money and goods, including 5,000 US dollars and a 400,000 Singapore dollars, a car and other gifts between 2001 and 2004.
During the previous court hearings, Dahuri testified that a slice of the collected fisheries ministry funds had been distributed to political factions and individual legislators as well as to candidates contending the 2004 presidential election.
In addition to the seven-year prison term, the court also ordered the former minister pay a 200-million-rupiah (22,000-dollar) fine.
Outside the courtroom, hundreds of Dahuris supporters, including a group of about 500 fishermen from the northern coast of West Java, called on the court to clear the former minister of all corruption charges.
The anti-graft court in late June sentenced Andin Taryoto, a former ministry secretary general, to 18 months in prison on similar charges.
Dahuri's case made headlines with local media alleging that several politicians, including presidential and vice-presidential
candidates in the 2004 election, of receiving money from the ministry to help finance their election campaigns.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono won the country's first direct election in October 2004 on a pledge to end corruption in what has consistently been rated as among the world's most-corrupt nations.
Since Yudhoyono's high-profile anti-graft campaign started, officials ranging from a former religious affairs minister to the
governor of Aceh province have been jailed for corruption.
However, critics say the government has conducted the campaign arbitrarily, and allege that many guilty parties remain at large or were never pursued.
Din Syamsuddin, chairman of the country's second-largest Muslim organization Muhammadiyah, claimed that many government officials were also conducting similar illegal collections, but no legal process has been sought.
"The trial against Dahuri is unfair. Thus, he should be cleared of from all charges, accordingly," Syamsuddin told reporter outside the courtroom.
Dahuri's team of lawyers said they would file an appeal to a higher court in an attempt to overturn the verdict.