Indonesia: Ahok Conviction Stands as Prosecutors Drop Appeal

Arie Firdaus
170608_ID_Ahok_1000.jpg Former Jakarta Gov. Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama (center) talks to his lawyers after a local court convicted and sentenced him to two years in prison on blasphemy charges, May 9, 2017.

Prosecutors who tried ex-Jakarta Gov. Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama for blasphemy said they withdrew their appeal of his two-year sentence, which means he must serve the full prison term unless he successfully appeals to the Supreme Court or seeks clemency.

On Thursday, North Jakarta Court spokesman Hasoloan Sianturi confirmed the prosecutors’ action, telling BenarNews they dropped the appeal earlier in the week.

Prosecutor Ali Mukartono said the action was taken because the prosecution team no longer saw a need to carry on with the appeal.

“There is no benefit, the defendant has revoked his appeal,” he told BenarNews. “Why would we want to fight if it has been accepted by Ahok? If we appeal, we consider the certainty of the law and its benefit.”

On May 22, Ahok, a member of Indonesia’s Christian and ethnic Chinese minority, surprised many of his supporters by deciding that he would not appeal the conviction and sentence handed to him by a bench of the North Jakarta court on May 9.

In a letter from Ahok read by his wife at a press conference, he said he dropped his appeal for the sake of the nation. He was concerned that prolonging the legal process would trigger bigger conflicts between his supporters and opponents.

Prosecutors who had called for a lighter sentence of two years’ probation followed by one year in jail if he committed a new offense, had filed a request for the court to review the case.

The prosecutors’ appeal claimed that the court erred in sentencing Ahok for blasphemy, and that it should have sentenced him for the lesser offense of conveying feelings of hostility, hatred or humiliation to any or several groups.

The court ruled that Ahok committed criminal blasphemy when he told an audience in September 2016 it should not be deceived by people citing a verse from Al-Maidah 51 from the Quran, which some interpret as meaning that Muslims should not have a non-Islamic leader.

The May 9 verdict ended a six-month trial held during the heat of a gubernatorial race in Jakarta and amid a series of massive street demonstrations staged by conservative Muslim groups who clamored for the governor to be convicted and ousted from office.

On April 19, Ahok was defeated in a run-off by a Muslim candidate, former Education Minister Anies Rasyid Baswedan, who was elected amid a wave of anti-Ahok religious fervor.

When his trial opened in December 2016, Ahok apologized for his remarks, saying he had never intended to offend Muslims and noting that he had been raised by adoptive Muslim parents.

Review or presidential pardon

Lawyer I Wayan Sudirta, who represents Ahok, said he was aware of the prosecutors’ decision to withdraw the appeal.

“Do not know yet,” Wayan told BenarNews when asked about what his client intended to do now.

With all appeals dropped, the former governor who resigned from office effective May 23, is officially a convict. As such, he is entitled to two steps to mitigate his sentence: he can file a judicial review to the Supreme Court or he can request clemency from his former boss, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

Ahok served as vice governor of Jakarta when Jokowi was governor of the capital city before being elected president in October 2014. Over the course of the trial, Jokowi appeared to distance himself from his one-time deputy.

“The decision will be Ahok’s,” Wayan said.

Abdul Fickar Fajar, a legal analyst at Trisakti University in Jakarta, said the two choices could prove positive for Ahok. Abdul pointed out that judicial review is allowed only when the verdict is official.

Another legal analyst, Muhammad Fatahillah, who teaches at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, said either step was possible.

“The verdict has been inkracht (has a permanent legal force). For clemency, the minimum requirement is a two-year sentence. So, Ahok has a chance,” he told BenarNews.

Wayan would not comment on which step, if any, his client would take.

“We will discuss it,” he said without elaborating.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.