Ahok to get early release from two-year jail term

Former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is serving a two-year jail term for blasphemy, will be a free man on Jan 24, a Law and Human Rights Ministry official said yesterday.

The early release date for the politician, best known by his Chinese nickname Ahok, was set after taking into consideration the remission he will receive as a Christian during the Christmas holidays.

"Ahok will gain a total remission of three months and 15 days," said Ms Sri Puguh Budi Utami, the ministry's director-general for correctional affairs. She was speaking to Tempo journalists during a visit to the news organisation with Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly.

Indonesia's remission system takes into consideration national holidays such as Christmas and Independence Day.

At the discretion of the Law and Human Rights Minister, an inmate with good behaviour could see between 15 and 60 days cut from his sentence for each holiday he is eligible to celebrate within his jail term.

Basuki was sentenced to two years' jail in May last year after a Jakarta court found him guilty of blasphemy against Islam. The controversial sentence was handed down weeks after he lost the Jakarta gubernatorial election to Mr Anies Baswedan.

Basuki was eligible for parole in August but had turned it down in the hope of an early release.

He was poised to make history as the first elected governor of Jakarta who is not only Chinese but also Christian. His straight-talking manner and championing of pluralism endeared him to many, but also saw his opponents turning that against him.

 
 
 

They pounced on a speech he had made in September 2016, when he referred to the Quran and told constituents not to be deceived by his opponents who said Muslims cannot elect a non-Muslim leader.

Hardline groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front rallied hundreds of thousands of Muslims to take to the streets in protest.

Critics panned the heavier-than-expected sentence, saying the court had bowed to pressure from hardline groups.

In April, a court granted his request for divorce on grounds that there was adequate evidence of infidelity by Madam Veronica Tan, his wife of more than 20 years.

Basuki took over as Jakarta governor from Mr Joko Widodo after the latter was elected president in 2014, and many are anticipating his return to politics.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2018, with the headline 'Ahok to get early release from two-year jail term'. Print Edition | Subscribe