Attorney-General to decide if Jakarta Governor Ahok should face blasphemy charges in court

Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (centre) is seen with supporters and members of his legal team outside police headquarters in Jakarta on Nov 22, 2016.
Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (centre) is seen with supporters and members of his legal team outside police headquarters in Jakarta on Nov 22, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA - The fate of Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is facing charges for insulting Islam, is now in the hands of the Attorney-General's Office (AGO).

Police Chief Tito Karnavian confirmed on Monday (Nov 28) that investigators have completed their probe and handed over the case to state prosecutors last Friday.

The AGO will now have two weeks to study the police findings and decide if the governor, better known by his nickname Ahok, should answer to the charges in court.

The 826-page case dossier contained interviews police investigators conducted with the Chinese-Christian politician as well as some 40 other witnesses, including various experts in linguistics, religion as well as criminal law.

Deputy Attorney-General for Crimes, Mr Noor Rachmad, told Antara news on Friday that his unit will study the case and decide if it has met the requirements under Indonesia's Criminal Code for Ahok to be brought before the court.

"I cannot say how many days it will take exactly, but we will do it as soon as possible," said Mr Noor Rachmad when asked when a decision would be taken by the AGO.

The blasphemy offence against Ahok carries a maximum jail term of five years.

Ahok is seeking to be re-elected as Jakarta governor in February next year. He and his running mate Djarot Saiful Hidayat are backed by the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party - Struggle (PDI-P) as well as a strong coalition of political parties, including Golkar, Indonesia's second largest party after the PDI-P.

They are up against the Gerindra Party pair of former education minister Anies Baswedan and businessman Sandiaga Uno, and former military officer Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono - son of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono - and veteran bureaucrat Sylviana Murni.

Ahok was a shoo-in for re-election until a video clip of him talking to a group of constituents in September was posted online. In the video, he was alleged to have told them not to be misled by his opponents who cited a verse in the Quran to urge Muslims not to vote for a non-Muslim.

He has since apologised for his remarks but that did not stop some Muslim groups as well as the hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) from staging a large-scale protests to call for his arrest earlier this month, which followed a smaller street march in October.

Despite the ongoing probe against Ahok, a third rally is being planned by the FPI on Dec 2. Police have said they detected a hidden agenda to overthrow the government led by President Joko Widodo, a close ally of Ahok, through these demonstrations.

Last Wednesday, the police charged private school lecturer Buni Yani, who had uploaded the video of Ahok, for inciting hatred. "Buni Yani has spread hate and triggered public conflict," said Jakarta police spokesman Awi Setiyono.

If found guilty, Buni may face a maximum six-year jail term.

tkchan@sph.com.sg