30 May 2017
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  • » 04/20/2017, 20.51

    INDONESIA

    Jakarta prosecutors ask for light sentence in blasphemy trial involving Ahok

    Mathias Hariyadi

    Prosecutors call for two years' probation with a possible one-year jail term if the accused breaks the law during this period. The maximum sentence in such cases is five years. Islamic extremists slam the prosecutors’ request. The latter acknowledge the outgoing governor’s "great work" in the capital.

    Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Prosecutors recommended two years' probation in the trial of Jakarta’s outgoing governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, commonly known as Ahok, with a possible one-year jail term if he commits a crime during this period.

    For Ahok, the trial comes on top of yesterday's election defeat against Anies Baswedan, former Minister of Education, the darling of extreme Islamist associations.

    If found guilty of insulting Islam, the Christian politician could receive up to five years in jail, but courts rarely go further than the prosecutors’ request.

    According to analysts and legal experts, the trial and Ahok’s probable appeal in case of a guilty verdict mean that he will likely remain in office until his mandate expires in October.

    For prosecutors, he is guilty of violating Article 156 of the Indonesian Penal Code, which punishes anyone who causes political disorders in the country.

    In his submission, public prosecutor Ali Mukartono acknowledged the governor’s "great work" to improve the capital. For this reason, he asked for a lesser sentence.

    Such an attitude did not please Islamic extremists and radicals. Some of them, including the Islamic Defence Front, were outside the courthouse chanting and shouting.

    At the end of the hearing, radicals called on the judges to dismiss the prosecutors’ request and impose the maximum sentence provided by the law.

    Governor Ahok, an ethnic Chinese Christian, became embroiled in the blasphemy case when on 9 October he cited verse 51 of the Fifth Sura of the Qur‘an (Al Maidah). At the time,

    Ahok had asked that religion not be used for political purposes, but many Muslims saw this as an insult to their faith. Eventually, this was used against him during his re-election campaign.

    This is not the first time that Indonesian Muslim leaders go against non-Muslim politicians and officials. Religion has already been used in the world’s most populous Muslim country.

    It is very likely that the blasphemy charges played a major role in Ahok’s defeat in yesterday’s run-off.

    Ahok is one of the few Indonesian political leaders to have defended freedom of conscience. Last June he opposed the obligation imposed on students from Jakarta to wear the Islamic veil. In July 2015, he sided with minority Ahmadis in their fight for civil rights. The latter are deemed heretical by majority Sunni Muslims.

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