JAKARTA’s Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as Ahok, faced court today where prosecutors reportedly called for one year’s jail for alleged blasphemy – but only if the capital’s outgoing governor repeats the offence over the next two years.
Ahok was required Thursday to attend court to face prosecutors on charges of insulting Islam last year, despite him still reeling from losing convincingly a day earlier to Anies Baswedan in the second round of a hard-fought gubernatorial election campaign.
“Destiny is in God’s hands,” Ahok had said Wednesday night as he conceded the election, “I will live with patience and sincerity, regardless of what the prosecutor demands.”
Prosecutors had previously requested the proceedings be delayed, providing more time for them to prepare. Police had also raised concerns about security given tensions around the election.
According to reports coming out of the courthouse in South Jakarta, prosecutors suggested a year in jail for Ahok’s blasphemy charge as well as two years’ probation. Some media outlets took this to mean that Ahok would have to serve further punishment on top of the year in jail, should he repeat the offence within the two-year probation period.
An evening update on Reuters, however, clarified this. Prosecutors apparently proposed what in legal terms is known as a “suspended sentence”, which is prison term that is not put into immediate effect.
The wire agency said it spoke to Ahok’s lawyer Humphrey Armri Djemat, who confirmed the recommendation meant Ahok would not have to serve time unless he repeats the offence within two years.
Asian Correspondent has not been able to independently verify the information.
What remains true, however, is that the sentence the prosecutors are calling for is significantly more lenient than the maximum four years’ imprisonment for blasphemy as enshrined under the Indonesian criminal code.
Article 56 of the Penal Code allows that “whoever publicly expresses feeling of hostility, hatred or contempt against certain sectors of the Indonesian community” faces this conviction.
Ahok was charged over comments he made about the Quran during campaigning last September – specifically a verse called Al Maidah 51, which deals with whether adherents can vote for a non-Muslim.
Prosecutors justified calling for a year by citing his “huge contribution to the city.”
Indonesian prosecutors say mitigating factor in their one-year sentence demand against Jakarta Gov Ahok was his "huge contribution" to city
— amanda hodge (@hodgeamanda) April 20, 2017
Nevertheless, they stated Ahok had created social unrest and disharmony in the capital.
Hardline Islamic groups have long campaigned against the Christian-Chinese governor and have attended the court throughout the duration of Ahok’s trial.
On Thursday, they responded angrily when hearing calls from prosecutors for a year in prison rather than the maximum penalty.
A scuffle breaks out. Tensions high. Ultra Conservative Islamic groups outside court furious wanted 5 yr maximum pic.twitter.com/FEKbuBUVNS
— Samantha Hawley (@samanthahawley) April 20, 2017
Anies Baswedan has attracted significant criticism during the campaign for courting the conservative Islamic vote in light of Ahok’s blasphemy charges, including meeting with the leader of the notorious Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) Rizieq Shibab.
After his victory became apparent on Wednesday, Anies tweeted that “Friends, whoever you have chosen, let’s embrace each other, it’s time for Jakarta to move forward happily together.”
** This article has been amended to clarify conflicting reports on the events that transpired during Ahok’s blasphemy hearing