Jakarta. Muslim protesters gathered at the historical Istiqlal Mosque in Central Jakarta on Friday (05/05) and marched to the nearby Supreme Court building in a mass rally they dubbed the "505 Action" — the number refers to today's date, May 5 — to demand a heavy sentence for Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama whose long running blasphemy trial is set to conclude next Tuesday.
Prosecutors on April 20 downgraded the accusations against Ahok from alleged blasphemy to publicly expressing feelings of hostility, hatred or contempt against one or more population groups, making some of his political opponents worried that he might get away scot-free.
Friday's demonstration was organized by a group called the Guardians of the Indonesian Ulema Council’s Fatwas (GNPF-MUI), which also staged other anti-Ahok rallies in the capital in the last few months.
During today's rally, Bachtiar Nasir, the head of the GNPF-MUI, said his group will accept whatever verdict the court hands down on Tuesday.
"We will accept whatever the judges decide," Bachtiar said, according to state news agency Antara.
Some protesters during the 505 rally pushed through barbed wired fences in front of the Supreme Court to voice their demand for a heavier sentence for the outgoing Jakarta governor.
Airlangga Pribadi Kusman, a lecturer in politics at Airlangga University in Surabaya, said the court is an independent institution and should not be swayed by public opinion.
"The judges should remain fair and objective. They should not let themselves be affected by political pressure, including these massive protests," Airlangga told the Jakarta Globe on Friday.
If anti-Ahok rallies end up influencing the verdict in Ahok's case, that would set a bad precedent for the rule of law in Indonesia, Airlangga said.
Airlangga also said that most of the anti-Ahok protesters did not understand the finer points of the legal arguments in Ahok's case. According to the lecturer, Ahok never intended to insult Islam, but was only warning residents in Jakarta's Thousand Islands district not to trust politicians who manipulate a Koranic verse to vilify him.
Two days ago, prominent lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis and 25 of his colleagues sent a letter to the North Jakarta District court, encouraging the judges not to bow down to intimidation and pressure.
In the letter, Todung said the blasphemy charges against Ahok were never proven in court and state prosecutors should stick to their downgraded sentence demand, which dropped the accusation of blasphemy.
Todung and his colleagues had collected more than 60,000 signatures for a petition to free Ahok at the website www.ahoktidakmenistaagama.com — the name of the website literally means "Ahok has not committed blasphemy" — and more than 10,000 signatures for the same petition hosted at www.change.org.