A day after failing in his bid for re-election as Jakarta’s governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known as “Ahok”, heard that he should at least avoid prison over alleged blasphemy charges.
Prosecutors have downgraded the blasphemy charges against him and recommend that, if he is found guilty, Ahok will serve no prison time. This will come as a relief to Ahok, because blasphemy is punishable by up to five years in prison.
The Guardian quoted his lawyer, I Wayan Sudirta, as saying: “If within the two years, Ahok doesn’t commit any new criminal act, like corruption, stealing … he will be free. If within that two years, he does commit a criminal act, he has to serve the one-year jail sentence.”
Ahok’s defence team will present its defence next week; a verdict is expected in May.
Although the sentencing demands were originally scheduled to be heard last week, they were delayed until shortly after the election.
His legal team is expected to present a defence next week, with the judges’ verdict to follow in May.
Prosecutors said that Ahok should receive a lighter sentence because of his “significant” contributions to the Indonesian capital. Before the Christian governor was charged with insulting Islam in one of his speeches, he enjoyed a large opinion-poll lead due to his determination to clean up traffic-clogged, polluted Jakarta.
“This trial, in the first place, should never have existed,” Andreas Harsono, Indonesia researcher for Human Rights Watch, told Al Jazeera. “It is very political, it was used to corner Ahok. Indonesia should scrap the blasphemy law, in fact Indonesia should release all people who are in prison for this … law.”
The legislation was rarely used during the 32-year rule of former President Suharto, but in recent years it has been exploited to persecute minorities, rights groups say.