Former Iraqi minister sentenced to 2 years in prison over corruption

BAGHDAD,ó A Baghdad court sentenced former environment minister Sargon Lazar Slewa to two years in prison on Thursday on graft-related charges, a judicial spokesman said, as the country seeks to root out corruption in government.

Slewa was taken into custody following the ruling and fined around $300,000, said judicial spokesman Abdul-Sattar al-Birqdar. The ruling can be appealed.

Slewa was sentenced under a section of the penal code which punishes intentional harm to public funds, though details of the case were not immediately released by the court.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi launched a campaign in August to tackle graft and incompetence in a political system which has created powerful patronage networks and undermined security forces battling Islamist militancy.

The move came after nationwide protests in August over corruption, poor electricity and water services and unemployment.

But Abadi has faced resistance from entrenched interests, and only some of the proposed reforms have been implemented so far. In a blow to his agenda, parliament voted unanimously on Monday to bar the government from passing important reforms without its approval.

Authorities issued an arrest warrant last month for Trade Minister Milas Mohammed Abdul Kareem and summoned other senior ministry officials, including head of the powerful grain board, over alleged illicit gains.

Several officials were fired this week, but Abdul Kareemís whereabouts are unknown.