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Jakarta Post

Records of mixed-faith judicial panel give hope of justice

  • Indra Budiari

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, December 14, 2016   /  07:29 am
Records of mixed-faith judicial panel give hope of justice

Observers say there should be no reason for distrusting the panel of judges in the ongoing blasphemy trial of Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama as there are very few controversial rulings in the records of the five judges.

North Jakarta District Court spokesman Hasoloan Sianturi has said that the five — Dwiarso Budi Santiarto, Jupriadi, Abdul Rosyad, Joseph V. Rahantoknam and I Wayan Wirjana — were the best judges for the trial, which is one of the country’s most high-profile of 2016.

The panel of judges, presided over by Dwiarso, is facing a serious test due to heavy pressure from conservative Islamic groups that have staged large-scale protests in Jakarta demanding that the incumbent gubernatorial candidate be imprisoned for blasphemy.

Unlike standard criminal trials, the court has assigned five judges instead of three. A five-judge panel is only mandatory for trials of corruption and human rights abuse cases.

Hasoloan said the decision was made to make sure that the case could be examined objectively. He also stressed that none of the judges had ever received sanctions for ethical violations from the Judicial Commission, which oversees the conduct of members of the
judiciary.

Not only that, but the judges are also of different faiths. While Dwiarso, Jupriadi and Abdul are Muslim, Joseph and Wayan are Catholic and Hindu, respectively.

Previously, the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) said that three of the 13 state prosecutors handling Ahok’s case were Christian while the others are Muslim.

Judicial Commission member Farid Wajdi also suggested that all the five judges were “so far clear”.

However, he said that two of the five judges had once been reported to the commission but a preliminary investigation did not find any evidence of wrongdoing.

“I cannot mention any names because it could affect the public’s faith in them,” Farid said, adding the commission had also deployed a team to monitor every hearing of Ahok’s trial.

Choky Ramadhan from the University of Indonesia’s Judicial Watch Society (MAPPI) said the judges’ “clean” track records could not guarantee their integrity.

“We still have to look closely at how they lead the trial,” Choky said.

Ahok’s defense team has expressed concerns that the judges’ independence might be compromised if protesters continued chanting outside the courtroom about sending Ahok to prison.

During the initial hearing on Tuesday, around 100 people chanted Quranic verses and yelled that Ahok was a “blasphemer who should be jailed as soon as possible”. They have vowed to be outside the court during every hearing until the judges deliver their verdict.

Reading the defense statement titled “Trial by the Mob”, lawyer Triemoeldja D. Soerjadi described the demonstration and protest outside the court as “external pressures”.

“Such pressure is a clear threat against the country’s democracy and constitution,” he said.

Lead prosecutor Ali Mukartono read out the eight-page indictment. It stated that interpretation of the Quran should be limited to Muslims only.

“What the defendant did, according to Article 156 (a) of the Criminal Code, constituted an act of hostility, hatred or insult toward one [religious] group of Indonesian citizens,” Ali said.

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