UTRECHT, Netherlands (AP) _ Jan Sariman, a former Surinamese minister who fled to the Netherlands in 1983 as a political refugee, committed suicide on the eve of his embezzlement trial, a prosecution spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Sariman, who was in his early 50s, was minister for agriculture, fisheries and animal husbandry in the former Dutch colony, located in northeastern South America, before a Dec. 8, 1992 bloody purge of opponents of former dictator Desi Bouterse, who took power in a 1980 military coup.

In 1983, Sariman fled to the Netherlands where he became active in the immigrant Surinamese community, serving as treasurer of the Foundation of Collaborating Ethnic Minorities in the Netherlands.

He was charged with misappropriating $132,000 from the foundation in a trial that was scheduled to begin Tuesday at the district court in this central Dutch city.

But the trial was suspended moments after it opened Tuesday when a court official announced Sariman had killed himself the previous day, according to prosecution spokeswoman Marjolein Kisjes.

No further details on Sariman's death or family circumstances were known, she said.