10-year jail term for former minister over alleged corruption claimed by prosecutors

Prosecutors from Indonesia Wednesday demanded judges sentence a former religious affairs minister to 10 years in jail over the alleged misuse of funds set aside for the Hajj pilgrimage. Said Agil Husin Al Munawar is charged with corruption for the alleged misuse of 680 billion rupiah (US$70 million; 58 million euros) collected by the ministry from Indonesian Muslims wanting to perform the hajj pilgrimage. "The behavior of the defendant has caused high costs to pilgrims ... and also damaged the image of a department bearing the name of religion," said chief prosecutor Ranu Mihardja.

It is not clear how much Al Munawar is personally alleged to have pocketed.

Al Munawar, who was minister of religious affairs under the previous administration of Megawati Sukarnoputri, has denied any wrongdoing. The Religious Affairs Ministry, which has long been regarded as one of the country's most corrupt institutions, has a near monopoly in the lucrative business of transporting about 200,000 pilgrims annually to Saudi Arabia for the hajj.

The case is the latest in a series of high-profile corruption cases whose suspects include members of the country's election commission, a provincial governor, dozens of regional officials and a relative of ex-President Suharto, reports the AP.

D.M.