'Ahok Not Guilty,' says a banner held up by a supporter of Jakarta Governor Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama during another hearing in his blasphemy trial on Jan. 3. (Antara Photo/Rivan Awal Lingga)

Verdict in Ahok Trial Crucial for Indonesia's Judicial System: Experts

BY :ALIN ALMANAR

MAY 04, 2017

Jakarta. The upcoming verdict in Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama's blasphemy trial is a cause for concern, but how the court will define the offense or the defendant's intention to commit it is crucial for the country's justice system, a senior researcher has said.

The court is set to deliver the verdict on May 9, three weeks after the prosecution recommended a suspended one-year prison sentence.

Dozens of witnesses and experts have testified both against and in defense of Ahok, whose public comment in October opposing the use of the Koran for political campaigning led to blasphemy charges.

Blasphemy provisions under the criminal code require the evidence of Ahok's intention to commit the offense, yet his trial could barely describe the matter, legal researcher Anggara of the Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR) told the Jakarta Globe on Thursday (04/05).

"The evidence of intention and purpose hasn't been shown," Anggara said.

"All that we want is that the court formulate it in the verdict ... It is important to set definite and appropriate limits," he added.

Prosecutors earlier in December indicted Ahok on alternative charges of blasphemy and hate speech, which respectively carry a maximum penalty of five and four years of imprisonment.

However, last month's sentence recommendation means that, if convicted, Ahok would be imprisoned only if he commits any crime within the next two years.

According to Anggara, Ahok should be acquitted of all charges.

"But the verdict isn't the most important thing in this entire legal process. What is crucial is how the court will define 'blasphemy,'" he said.

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