Indonesia's ex-religious minister gets six years for graft

Official convicted of using taxpayer’s money to take family and friends on two trips to Mecca
Indonesia's ex-religious minister gets six years for graft

Former Indonesian religious affairs minister Suryadharma Ali speaks to reporters Jan. 11 in Jakarta after being convicted on corruption charges. (Photo by Ryan Dagur)

A former Indonesian religious affairs minister has been sentenced to six years in prison on corruption charges related to two hajj pilgrimages and the misuse of funds.

Former minister Suryadharma Ali was found guilty Jan. 11 in Central Jakarta of mismanaging hajj pilgrimage funds in 2010 and 2013 and for misusing ministerial funds for his own personal benefit.

The judges said Ali, also former chairman of the United Development Party, misused state funds equaling 93 billion rupiah (US$6.7 million), to take his family and friends on two free trips to the hajj.

Ali has been ordered by the court to pay a fine of 300 million rupiah (US$21,760) plus restitutions amounting to 1.8 billion rupiah (US$130,710).

The six-year sentence is lower than the 11 years sought by prosecutors from the Corruption Eradication Commission, who also demanded Ali be fined 750 million rupiah (US$54,465) and forced to pay restitutions of 2.3 billion rupiah (US$165,958).    

Ali told the court that the verdict failed to review the facts delivered during the trial and he has asked for more time to weigh his legal options.

"Please give me some time to think together with my lawyers regarding the legal steps that we will take," Ali said.

 

Corruption levels extreme

Father Guido Suprapto, the Indonesian bishops' laity commission secretary, said the verdict showed that corruption in Indonesia has reached critical levels.

"Even a government institution based on religion is involved in corruption," Father Suprapto told ucanews.com.

"And worse, it is the leader. Corruption is really an emergency in Indonesia."

Father Suprapto said that people should take heed of the sentence handed out to Ali and stay away from corrupt practices.

A religious affairs minister should be concerned about leading people to live a life based on religious values, he said.

Father Antonius Benny Susetyo, secretary of the Jakarta-based Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace's national council, said he believed the sentence was too light.

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"A religious affairs minister should be a role model for this nation. But the sentence hurts public perceptions of justice," said Father Susetyo, adding that a larger sentence would also have a more deterrent effect.

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