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Jakarta Post

Prose­cu­tors spare Ahok af­ter elec­tion de­feat

  • Callistasia Anggun Wijaya

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, April 21, 2017   /   09:45 am
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.