The Jakarta Post
While delivering a speech about fish cultivation in Thousand Islands on Sept. 27 last year, Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama likely had no idea that his brief citation of a Quranic verse would kindle an uproar and force him to stand trial for six months on blasphemy charges.
The governor, who happens to be a Christian of Chinese descent and was then an apparent shoo-in for the capital’s top job, might never have imagined that the speech would trigger religious and racial tensions among Jakartans and citizens nationwide, or that it would contribute to his defeat in the election last month.
Ahok’s fate will be determined on Tuesday when the North Jakarta District Court is set to hand down a ruling on whether Ahok committed blasphemy or insulted Muslims by citing the verse, Surah Al Maidah 51, within a political context in the run-up to the gubernatorial vote.
The prosecutors have already dropped the blasphemy charge originally levied against Ahok and are now accusing him solely of insulting Muslims, which is prohibited under Article 156 of the Criminal Code (KUHP), and are urging the judges to punish him with two years of probation.
However, despite the relatively light demand, Ahok said he had been preparing for the worst, as according to the Criminal Law Procedures Code (KUHAP), the judges can still declare him guilty of the charges listed in the prosecutors’ original indictment, in which the governor was also accused of violating Article 156a of the KUHP regarding blasphemy, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison upon conviction.
Ahok said he would submit his fate to God while facing the verdict.
“We have undergone 21 sessions of the court. What can we do? Tomorrow I will listen to the judges’ decision, I will be pasrah [submit to the will of God],” Ahok said at City Hall.
Thousands of balloons were delivered to Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaha Purnama at City Hall ahead of the announcement of the verdict in his blasphemy case on May 9. (JP/Dhoni Setiawan)
Ahok, who has repeatedly said he never intended to insult the Quran or Muslims, added that he could only pray that the five-judge panel led by justice Dwiarso Budi Santiarto would ignore public pressure while making its decision and declare his innocence.
Ahok and his lawyers have said that the case against him was nothing but a trial by the mob, proven by the two massive rallies on Nov. 4 and Dec. 2 that were orchestrated by the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) and other hardline Muslim groups to demand Ahok be thrown in jail.
The large street rallies continued on March 31, when thousands urged the government to dismiss Ahok from the governor’s seat because of his status as a defendant, and on May 5, when representatives of the National Movement to Safeguard the Indonesian Ulema Council’s Fatwa (GNPFMUI) visited the Supreme Court to demand it ensure the district court judges remain independent when deciding on the verdict.
The judges’ independence could be put to a test as police have said that about 5,000 “contra-Ahok” people plan to gather in front of the Agriculture Ministry office in Ragunan, South Jakarta, where the trial has been taking place.
(Read also: 13,000 personnel to guard Ahok's verdict reading)
Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Argo Yuwono said the police would deploy 13,000 officers to safeguard the hearing and prevent any friction between people who oppose Ahok and Ahok’s supporters.
Meanwhile, since last week, hundreds of Ahok’s supporters have been sending flower boards and decorative balloons to City Hall with messages of encouragement for him.
One banner measuring 4 by 3 meters shows the face of the Walt Disney character Nemo, with a message: “Pak Ahok, you have awakened the Nemo in all of us.” The message referred to a statement Ahok made in his own defense in court on April 25 when he compared himself to the plucky lost juvenile fish.
On another flower board was written: “Pak Ahok, keep being tough like Nemo. Don’t give up going against the current for truth’s sake. Justice will prevail.”
Many of the boards contained demands for the judges, such as “Your Honor, history will record your verdict. Listen to your heart: free Ahok!” or “Free Ahok, he is not a blasphemer. Ahok is not guilty.”
Some civil groups, including the Women Care for Jakarta (PPKJ) movement, adorned City Hall with thousands of red and white balloons to hearten the governor.
During the hearing on Tuesday, the PPKJ plans to conduct a “Flower Revolution” by distributing roses and stickers saying #SaveAhok and #FreeAhok to residents in all five municipalities in the city.