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Ahok Probably Won't Go To Jail For Blasphemy

A day after losing the governors race, prosecutors recommended that sitting Jakarta governor Ahok face two years probation in his ongoing blasphemy trial.
April 20, 2017, 12:22pm
Photo by Ahmad Fikri Fakih.

Outgoing governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, or Ahok, will probably not be going to jail for insulting islam after prosecutors recommended that he face a two years probation on a lesser charge.

On day 18 of Ahok's blasphemy trial, prosecutor Ali Mukartono read a 209 page indictment at the Aula Kementrian Pertanian courtroom in South Jakarta. "Based on the evidence, we demand the judges find the defendant guilty for provoking hostility, as regulated by Criminal Code article 156," prosecutor Mukartono said.

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The two year probation charge stemmed from the lesser crime of provoking hostility and public unrest which is regulated by article 156. Not the charge of blasphemy, article 156A, which the governor was originally on trial for.

Article 156 covers hostility, hatred, or offense toward a certain group, and is a crime that carries a maximum imprisonment of five years. During Ahoks probationary period, if he is found guilty of any other crimes, he will have to serve a one-year jail sentence.

"The incriminating factor were his actions which caused concern and anxiety among the public and sparked misunderstandings among societal groups in Indonesia," prosecutor Mukartono told Antara.

Accord to prosecutors, Ahok was given a lighter punishment because of his good behavior during the trial and as an acknowledgment of all the work he's put into improving Jakarta.

The decision was met with anger outside of the courtroom by the Indonesian Islamic Front (FUI), and a number of other Islamic organizations who gathered outside of the Ministry of Agriculture and protested. They demanded that Ahok be put behind bars and removed from his post as Jakarta governor—a position he will remain in until the new governor is sworn in this September. A member of FUI said that they would still monitor Ahok's trials until the official results are out, even though Ahok has already admitted defeat to Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno.

Human rights advocates in Indonesia considered this case a bad precedent for minorities and freedom of expression in Indonesia. Ahok's case is not only controversial but has also fallen in line with blasphemy cases of the past. Since 1968, article 156 has been seen as a law used to silence political dissidence or opponents and all who have been charged with it have been convicted.

"This case is a regression," said Human Rights Watch researcher Andreas Harsono. "All that progress we see in Indonesia since reformasi is set back to zero."