March 16, 2019 / 8:11 AM / 8 days ago

Indonesia anti-graft agency names president's ally suspect in bribery case

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia’s anti-graft agency on Saturday named a prominent Islamist politician backing President Joko Widodo’s re-election campaign as a suspect in a bribery case, an investigator said.

The United Development Party (PPP) chairman Muhammad Romahurmuziy had allegedly accepted bribes to get two people high ranking jobs at the religious affairs ministry, Laode Syarif, deputy chairman of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), told a news briefing.

Romahurmuziy was arrested on Friday, just weeks before legislative and presidential elections set for April 17, when Widodo will seek re-election.

Noting that 60 percent of cases handled by the anti-graft agency were related to politics, Syarif reminded the public in the runup to the election that they should “vote for those who are honest.”

As part of the bribery investigation, the KPK has confiscated 156.8 million rupiah ($11,000).

In a handwritten letter distributed to media by the KPK, Romahurmuziy said he was framed and that the case was politically motivated.

“This is the risk of becoming a spokesman for a coalition that wants to make Indonesia to be led by a nationalist, moderately religious leader,” he wrote in the letter.

KPK said its investigation adhered to anti-corruption laws.

PPP, which controls 7 percent of parliament, is expected to canvas the conservative Muslim vote for Widodo, whose religious credentials have been attacked by opponents.

The case would not affect Widodo’s electability, the president’s campaign manager Erick Thohir said in a statement on Friday, while urging people to respect the presumption of innocence during the legal process.

Several recent polls showed Widodo holding a double-digit lead over his challenger, retired general Prabowo Subianto.

($1 = 14,255.0000 rupiah)

Reporting by Jessica Damiana; Additional reporting by Ed Davies; Writing by Gayatri Suroyo; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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