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Jakarta Post

Support mounts for Ahok

  • Callistasia Anggun Wijaya and Ivany Atina Arbi

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, May 12, 2017   /   07:30 am
Support mounts for Ahok People attend a rally outside the National Police's Mobile Brigade (Brimob) headquarters in Kelapa Dua, Depok, West Java, on May 10, to show their support for non-active Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok"Tjahaja Purnama. (AFP/Bay Ismoyo)

Non-active Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama has served two nights behind bars since the North Jakarta District Court declared him guilty of blasphemy and sentenced him to two years in prison.

However, his incarceration has triggered a wave of massive support from sympathizers who lament what they consider an unjust ruling and demand the suspension of the detention of the outgoing governor, who is also filing an appeal against the verdict.

On the very evening after the verdict was announced, thousands of Jakarta residents rallied until late night in front of the Cipinang detention center in East Jakarta, forcing the authorities to transfer Ahok to the police’s Mobile Brigade headquarters in Kelapa Dua, Depok, West Java, which houses terrorism and treason suspects, citing public order and security concerns. Unfortunately, the move failed to discourage Ahok’s sympathizers from flocking to the complex.

On Thursday, Ahok, through a loudspeaker connected to his detention cell, asked his supporters to leave the complex.

“I am safe here. I ask you to disperse, or otherwise I might be transferred elsewhere, such as someplace out of town,” Ahok said. “Therefore, if bapak and ibu really love me, please go home now.”

On Wednesday morning, thousands gathered at City Hall to join a choir led by renowned conductor Addie MS. Footage of the emotional crowd, which included acting governor Djarot Saiful Hidayat, singing national songs dur- ing the event went viral over social media.

Later in the evening, another crowd gathered at Proklamasi Park in Central Jakarta where people held candles aloft, symbolizing their hope for the nation to recover its unity after the deeply divisive election. Rallies not only occurred in the capital. More than 1,000 protesters also staged a candlelight vigil in the area of Yogyakarta’s Tugu monument and hundreds more were in Imbi Park in Jayapura, Papua.

Reports have also been circulating that those living far beyond Jakarta are planning to hold similar “1,000 candlelight vigils,” including in Medan, North Sumatra, on Thursday evening, at KB Park in Semarang, Central Java, and in Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto, Canada, on Friday, at the Sir James Mitchell Park, South Perth in Australia and in West Covina, California, US, on Saturday and at Victoria Park in Hong Kong on Sunday.

Commenting on the massive rallies, former president and Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri said the support simply reflected the people’s love for Ahok, thanks to his stellar performance.

“I feel sad. It’s unspeakable to see Ahok [being imprisoned] this way,” she said during a visit to Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara.

Megawati said she hoped people would learn from Ahok’s case to stop thinking in divisive ways and start treating fellow countrymen equally, regardless of their ethnic or religious backgrounds.

In addition to the rallies, Ahok’s supporters also expressed their support by giving copies of their ID cards and signatures to rally organizers, offering to be his guarantors.

Ahok’s lawyers earlier sent a letter to the Jakarta High Court demanding it suspend Ahok’s detention. In the letter, Jakarta acting governor Djarot, Ahok’s wife Veronica Tan, his son Nicholas Sean Purnama and his lawyers also registered to be his guarantors.

One of Ahok’s lawyers, I Wayan Sudirta, said that the high court would decide whether to suspend Ahok’s sentence once it received the case files from the North Jakarta District Court.

“We hope that the district court would immediately deliver the files to the high court, so it could decide whether to grant our request or not,” Wayan said, adding that the files comprise the judges’ verdict, investigation dossiers and evidence.

High court spokesman Johanes Suhadi said on Wednesday evening that as of then the court had not received the files from the district court.

Separately, a day after handing down the verdict, three of the five judges in Ahok’s case were promoted by the Supreme Court. Dwiarso and Abdul Rosyad were promoted to be judges in the Denpasar High Court and the Palu High Court, respectively, while Jupriyadi was promoted to be head of the Bandung District Court.

Nethy Dharma Somba, Bambang Muryanto, and Panca Nugraha contributed in the report.