“I did not insult any group whatsoever,” asserted Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama at the resumption of his blasphemy trial on Tuesday.
As his court case draws to a close, Ahok told prosecutors he felt he had been unfairly treated after being reported for blasphemy regarding comments he made last September about the Quranic verse Al Maidah 51 which deals with whether Muslims may elect a non-Muslim.
“Just like a Nazi propagandist, a lie which is told over and over again will become truth,” he told the court on Tuesday, reported the Australian Associated Press.
“We heard it over the mosques, over social media, in daily conversation. What’s been suspected has become confirmation.”
Having been defeated in Wednesday’s gubernatorial election to his opponent Anies Baswedan, Ahok returned to court to hear the prosecution’s demands on Thursday.
Prosecutors downgraded their charge to harassment from the original crime of blasphemy, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in Indonesia. They called for Ahok to be put on two years’ probation period with a possible one-year jail sentence if he reoffends within that time.
They cited the governor’s “huge contribution” to Jakarta as a reason for reducing the desired punishment.
#Ahok defence: Even though I am cursed for holding a different belief, I will continue to serve with love. It's proven I am not a blasphemer
— Olivia Rondonuwu (@OliveRondonuwu) April 25, 2017
As Ahok faced court yet again on Tuesday, state prosecutor Ali Mukartono stated “Ahok acted politely during hearings, participated in the development of Jakarta and the public disturbance (he is accused of causing) was partly due to a person named Buni Yani.”
Many moderates had hoped Ahok’s loss in the Jakarta poll would temper efforts to unseat him and see him jailed for his allegedly blasphemous comments regarding Al Maidah 51. Hardline groups have even called for Ahok to be hung.
During the Tuesday trial, the hashtag #AyoPenjarakanAhok (“Let’s jail Ahok”) went viral, with some 23,700 netizens having used the tag by 10.30am.
As with all previous sessions of Ahok’s case, the hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) were in attendance this time to reject the prosecution’s call for a relatively lenient sentence and demand the maximum five years’ jailtime under Indonesia’s blasphemy legislation.
Not satisfied with Ahok's decisive defeat at polls last week, FPI calling for demonstration to demand maximum punishment at court on Tuesday pic.twitter.com/FZKnpZY3pU
— Bastiaan Scherpen (@bscherpen) April 24, 2017
The FPI also issued a list of “ten crimes” by the prosecution, including they had “defended Ahok by claiming he does not despise religion.” The group also called for the Indonesia’s Attorney-General HM Prasetyo to be fired.
— Muslim_Bersatu (@Muslim_Bersatu1) April 25, 2017
Associate professor Greg Fealy from the Coral Bell School of Asia-Pacific Affairs at the Australian National University wrote last week “Ahok shouldn’t escape criticism. His advisors and supporters had long pleaded with him not to speak on sensitive Islamic issues, but he was heedless.”
#AyoPenjarakanAhok this man here is doing a great job in serving jakarta, yea his mouth is kinda foul but what he has done aint that foul
— joyce (@eunsookook) April 24, 2017
But at city hall on Tuesday, supporters flocked to wish Ahok well and thank him for working hard during his time in Jakarta’s top job.
Balaikota @DKIJakarta pagi ini. Makin banyak warga yang datang ingin bertemu @basuki_btp dan makin banyak karangan bunganya pic.twitter.com/bQ0V4VuBij
— Prasetyo Andy W. (@praw) April 25, 2017
Meanwhile, it was reported on Tuesday FPI leader Habib Rizieq Shibab has again refused to cooperate with police regarding pornography charges against him.
Viva reports Rizieq did not observe a summons by Jakarta police because he had pre-existing engagements – presumably to attend Ahok’s trial. Rizieq, who is married, stands accused of sending and receiving lewd text messages to treason suspect Firza Husein.
Indonesia’s President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is reported to be considering another Cabinet reshuffle after Ahok’s loss. While he remained neutral in his comments during the election campaign, the former running mates remain close political allies.
“Indonesia needs to avoid divisive issues such as race, religion and ethnicity to win elections,” Jokowi told The Wall Street Journal last week, “we need to focus on policy issues and programmes.”