An Indonesian district court next week will open a judicial review of former Jakarta Gov. Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama’s blasphemy conviction last year, an official said Tuesday.
Lawyers for Ahok filed a request earlier this month for a review of his case, pointing to what they said was a mistake in his May 2017 conviction and sentencing to two years in prison.
The North Jakarta District Court appointed a three-judge panel to hear the request on Monday, court spokesman Jootje Sampaleng told BenarNews.
“They [Ahok’s lawyers] determined there was an error by the judges. They also refer to Buni Yani’s verdict,” said Jootje. He was referring to a man who uploaded an edited version of a video recording of a speech by Ahok that was deemed to contain blasphemous anti-Muslim remarks, which landed the then-governor of Jakarta into trouble. Ahok is a member of Indonesia’s Christian and ethnic Chinese minority.
“The consideration and all reasons for the judicial review are to be read out at the first hearing,” Jootje said, adding it that it would be open to the public.
Buni, in the meantime, filed an appeal to the Supreme Court after the Bandung District Court in West Java province convicted and sentenced him to 18 months in November 2017 for violating Indonesia’s Law on Electronic Transactions and Information.
The court found Buni guilty of editing the September 2016 video in which Ahok warned residents of the Thousand Islands regency about people using Quranic verses for political gain. The edited video made Ahok appear to say that the Quran itself deceived people.
The video angered conservative Muslim groups whose members staged street protests in Jakarta demanding that Ahok be removed from office and prosecuted for allegedly defaming Islam. Buni’s lawyer, Aldwin Rahadian, said his client appealed his conviction.
A legal analyst said Ahok’s lawyers are right in filing for the judicial review.
“That is part of his efforts to be free from prison. It is fair,” Suparji Ahmad, a legal analyst at Al Azhar University in Jakarta, told BenarNews.
Case to go before Supreme Court
A lawyer representing the ex-governor, Josefina Agatha Syukur, declined to discuss details of the review.
“We will reveal all of them at the first hearing,” said Josefina, adding she did not know if Ahok would attend.
Supreme Court spokesman Abdullah, who uses one name only, said a convict who filed a petition for a judicial review was not required to attend the hearing.
The district court panel will hear the complaint and make a judgment that will be transferred to the Supreme Court for a final decision, he told BenarNews.
“It cannot be ascertained how long the Supreme Court’s decision will take,” Abdullah said, adding the district panel’s deliberations could take three to four weeks.
Novel Bakmumin, a spokesman for the hardline Muslim group Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), said he wanted the Supreme Court to reject Ahok’s case. A ruling in favor of Ahok would heat up the political situation ahead of regional elections later this year and the 2019 presidential election, Novel said.
“The nation can be more divided,” said Novel, whose group led major protests in Jakarta in 2016 and 2017 calling for Ahok to be imprisoned. “Moreover, it is a sensitive issue of religious defamation that could offend Muslims.”