Prosecutors spare Ahok after election defeat
Callistasia Anggun Wijaya
The Jakarta Post
Jakarta | Fri, April 21, 2017 | 09:45 am
Photo: Prosecutors spare Ahok after election defeat All ready: Blasphemy defendant Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama attends his trial at the North Jakarta District Court on April 20. The court’s judge panel sentenced him to one year in prison. (Republika/ POOL/Raisan Al Farisi via JP)
The past few months have been a long and arduous period for Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, who has been mired in a blasphemy case following several large-scale street rallies demanding his imprisonment and dismissal.
His predicament culminated on Wednesday, when his political rival, Anies Baswedan, defeated him in the Jakarta gubernatorial election by riding a wave of growing religious conservatism.
Directly after his loss, Ahok was forced to sit through another court hearing in order to listen to the prosecutors’ demands on Thursday.
This time, however, he could breathe a sigh of relief after prosecutors decided to drop blasphemy charges against him.
During the hearing, the prosecutors demanded the North Jakarta District Court sentence him to two years’ probation if found guilty of violating Article 156 of the Criminal Code (KUHP) on showing animosity toward others. This is a far cry from the five years’ maximum imprisonment for blasphemy, as stipulated in Article 156a of the KUHP.
Should Ahok violate the probation, he should be sentenced to one year in prison, the prosecutors said.
“We demand the judges rule two years’ probation and one year of imprisonment if the probation is broken” prosecutor Ali Mukar-tono said.
Initially, the prosecutors built their case against Ahok on the grounds that he insulted Islam by quoting Surah Al Maidah 51, a Quranic verse often used by certain Muslim conservative political groups to urge Muslims to vote only for political candidates who share the same faith.
But on Thursday, they admitted they could not prove Ahok had insulted Islam as a whole, but only individual Muslims.
Therefore, the prosecutors decided to withdraw their accusation that Ahok had violated Article 156a of the KUHP, an offense that carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison upon conviction.
Furthermore, the prosecutors said Ahok had been cooperative during the legal process.
Also, they added that the contributions he made to develop the capital during his service as governor were a mitigating factor.
However, the prosecutors said Ahok was still guilty of showing animosity toward Muslims who believed that Surah Al Maidah 51 instructed them not to choose non-Muslims as leaders.
The prosecutors argued since Al Maidah 51 had various interpretations, even among Muslims, Ahok was at fault because he acted as if he knew the correct understanding of the verse.
They claimed that when Ahok said Thousand Islands residents could be deceived by some of the interpretations of Surah Al Maidah 51, Ahok had not only insulted Muslims who had a different view to him, but also Thousand Islands residents, who are mostly Muslim.
“The defendant acted as if his interpretation is correct and said people who believe other interpretations were being tricked,” prosecutor Ardito Muwardi said.
Nevertheless, Ahok was not the only one to blame in the case, the prosecutors said.
They cited Buni Yani, now a hate-speech suspect, who uploaded an edited video of Ahok’s speech to his Facebook account with a misleading transcription.
That video led to public uproar and the governor’s blasphemy charges, the prosecutors said.
Pedri Kasman, the secretary of Muhammadiyah’s youth wing, who reported Ahok for blasphemy to the police, said he believed the prosecutors were biased.
“This legal process was in vain as it has been interfered with by parties with power,” he said.
Police advise court to delay Ahok hearings
Callistasia Anggun Wijaya
The Jakarta Post
Jakarta | Fri, April 7, 2017 | 07:52 am
Police advise court to delay Ahok hearings Get ready: Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama gets prepared to attend his blasphemy trial at the North Jakarta District Court on April 4. (Antara/Gilang Praja)
The Jakarta Police believe legal proceedings against embattled governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama are adding to alreadyheightened public tension in the lead-up to the gubernatorial runoff election on April 19.
As part of efforts to ensure a safe and peaceful election, Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. M. Iriawan has sent a letter to the North Jakarta District Court, requesting that it postpone further hearings of Ahok’s trial, given the vulnerable security conditions in the capital.
The postponement was necessary because police and military personnel would have to start shifting their focus to safeguarding the election, he said.
“We suggest that the prosecution’s sentence demands in Ahok’s blasphemy trial be postponed until after the runoff,” Iriawan said in the letter made available to The Jakarta Post on Thursday. The letter was also sent to the chief justice of the Supreme Court, the National Police chief, the police’s general supervision inspector, the Jakarta High Court head and the attorney general.
Late last year, police requested that the trial be moved from the North Jakarta District Court to the Agriculture Ministry’s main hall in South Jakarta due to security concerns.
Based on an initial schedule, prosecutors are expected to make their sentence demands on March 11, while the defendant is scheduled to read out his defense statement on April 17, just two days before the runoff.
The campaign period, which runs from March 7 until April 15, has been dominated by religious sentiment and racial bigotry resulting from the blasphemy allegations against the governor, who is a Christian of Chinese descent.
In early March, some local mosques displayed banners saying that those who voted for “blasphemers” would not be entitled to Islamic funeral rites and prayers when they died.
Less than three weeks before the election, thousands of people staged a rally called “313” in reference to the date to demand the incarceration of Ahok.
Further, there is the antiAhok Tamasya Al-Maidah movement, facilitated through an application available on Playstore, which encourages Muslims from across the country to flock to polling stations to supervise the election.
Separately, Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Argo Yuwono said the police’s letter was issued to ensure voting day would pass safely, especially given the fact that Ahok’s scheduled hearing on April 17 would take place in the cooling-off period between April 16 and April 18.
Separately, North Jakarta District Court spokesman Hasoloan Sianturi said the court had received the letter, but in accordance with a decision made by judges in an April 4 hearing, the trial would continue on April 11.
The decision to postpone hearings could only be made in the courtroom, he added.
Ahok’s lawyer Fifi Lety Indra said the governor’s legal team would comply with the court’s decision regarding the next hearing.
Besides requesting the court to postpone Ahok’s hearing, Gen. M. Iriawan also informed the court that the police would postpone their interrogation of Ahok’s rival candidate pair, Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno, who have also been reported to the police for several alleged violations.
Ahok’s legal team reported Anies for alleged defamation on Wednesday after the candidate publicly claimed that Ahok would evict the residents of 300 areas across the city if he was reelected as Jakarta governor.
Sandiaga was reported by a person named Edward S Soeryadjaya to the Jakarta Police for alleged embezzlement and receipt forgery.
A campaign team member of Anies and Sandiaga, Yupen Hadi, said the team appreciated the police’s order.