Page last updated at 09:29 GMT, Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Indonesia jails MP for corruption

By Lucy Williamson
BBC News, Jakarta

Logger cuts log in Riau forest, Nov 07
Logging of Indonesia's forests continues, much of it illegal

Indonesia has jailed a prominent sitting member of parliament on corruption charges.

Al-Amin Nasution was convicted by the corruption court on several counts of bribery relating to protected forest land in Indonesia's Riau province.

The conviction is a sign of changing times in Indonesia's battle with corruption.

Corruption has often been blamed for eating away at Indonesia's precious remaining forest.

The story told by the prosecution was breathtakingly audacious.

Al-Amin Nasution had accepted bribes from local officials in Riau in return for signing over protected forest land for development.

They had wanted to build a new provincial capital on the land - a plan that would have meant cutting down the lucrative timber that covers it.

Flexing muscles

It is only in the last few years that key figures have been brought to trial for corruption relating to the destruction of forests.

And only more recently still that Indonesia's Corruption Eradication Commission has started to flex its muscles inside the country's parliament.

The arrest of several MPs and the tapping of phones in the parliament building has led to a new nervousness among the country's elected officials.

Some admit to leaving their biggest, shiniest cars at home, or avoiding any discussion of financial matters by telephone - for fear of being called in by investigators.

The conviction of a sitting MP on corruption charges will drive home the point that parliament is no longer immune.

Tackling the pervasive culture of corruption here was never going to be easy.

But Nasution, now beginning an eight-year jail sentence, is one of the clearest signs yet that things are - slowly - changing.

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