Jail need not mean leaving office

Jakarta's governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama singing the Indonesian national anthem during his final campaign rally, on Feb 11, 2017.
Jakarta's governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama singing the Indonesian national anthem during his final campaign rally, on Feb 11, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

Despite a tight race to City Hall, Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama and his running mate Djarot Saiful Hidayat remain firm favourites to be re-elected.

But Basuki, better known as Ahok, has also found himself in a rare and precarious position of possibly facing jail time, if he is found guilty of insulting Islam.

Prosecutors have filed one charge of blasphemy, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, and another charge of making hate speech, which has a penalty of up to four years' jail, against him.

But they have not made their final recommendations on whether they will proceed on both charges or the penalties they are pushing for.

Lawyers say if Basuki has the dubious honour of winning the election but is also convicted of either offence, he can remain in office until his appeal process in court is exhausted.

Also, under Indonesian law, an elected official need not be removed from office, as long as he has not been sentenced to five years or more in prison.

Therefore, even if he is found guilty and serves time in prison, lawyers say a re-elected Basuki may still be able to stay on as governor, as long as he is not given the maximum sentence of five years' jail.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2017, with the headline 'Jail need not mean leaving office'. Print Edition | Subscribe