The Jakarta Post
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.