Incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama pleaded not guilty during a court hearing in his blasphemy trial on Tuesday (25/04), likening his recent legal battles to that of the title character in Disney's 2003 'Finding Nemo.' (Antara Photo/Muhammad Adimaja)

Trial Is Politically Motivated, Ahok Should Be Acquitted: Setara Institute


APRIL 21, 2017

Jakarta. Jakarta-based human rights group Setara Institute has called on the judges to acquit Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, arguing that the charge against him is politically motivated, the group said in a statement.

"The judges should rectify the actions of the police and state prosecutors by [acquitting] Ahok from the charge against him and clearing his name," Setara Institute deputy head, Bonar Tigor Naipospos, said in a statement released shortly after Ahok's court session on Thursday (20/04).


At the session, prosecutors addressed the court on sentence, suggesting that a two-year probation period is appropriate if the governor is convicted. In the event that the probation order is breached, a possible one-year jail term may be imposed, the prosecution added.

The prosecution reduced the blasphemy charge against the governor from Article 156a of the Criminal Code to Article 156, explaining that Ahok's criticism was directed at people, not the Koran. The latter carries a lighter maximum sentence and also no longer requires that the prosecution prove that Ahok "deliberately" committed the act, which would have been more difficult to prove.

Article 156 also has a wider scope, where the prosecution need only prove that the accused publicly expressed feelings of hostility, hatred or contempt against one or more groups of the population of Indonesia. In this context, a group may be distinguished by race, country of origin, religion and descent.

Ahok had been facing blasphemy charges since November last year after saying during a speech on Pramuka Island that his political rivals have been quoting verse 51 of the Koran's Al-Maidah chapter to turn people against him.

"The reduction of the charge from Article 156a [to Article 156], has bolstered the views of various legal experts, religious figures, academics and nongovernmental activists [who argue] that the elements of blasphemy are difficult to prove," Bonar said.

Bonar added that accusing Ahok of blasphemy was merely an effort to satisfy certain politically motivated interests to hamper his chances in the gubernatorial election.

"It was more a move by law enforcers to satisfy the desire of a political mob to send Ahok to prison and to remove him from the Jakarta election by stigmatizing him as a 'blasphemer,'" Bonar said in the statement.

It is clear that the prosecution missed the mark, realizing that the evidence was limited and it was an uphill battle to prove that blasphemy was committed, Bonar said.

"It's obvious that the blasphemy trial against Ahok is just a move by law enforcers to further political interests, or at least, a move to let law enforcement become an instrument catering to the interest of street mobs," he said in the statement.

"By instead using Article 156 [of the Criminal Code], the foul play [that is going on] has become so obvious, as the scope of this article is wider compared to Article 156a. The prosecution missed their target," Bonar said.

Bonar also hopes that the judges will consider all factors when preparing the verdict.