Ex-Jakarta governor challenges blasphemy conviction

Basuki, better known as Ahok, was found guilty of insulting Islam by a Jakarta district court on May 9 last year and sentenced to two years in jail. Supporters of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama with a placard message that translates to "Freedom for Ahok" out
Supporters of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama with a placard message that translates to "Freedom for Ahok" (above) outside North Jakarta District Court yesterday, as a hardline Muslim group member rallied against the former governor.PHOTO: REUTERS
Basuki, better known as Ahok, was found guilty of insulting Islam by a Jakarta district court on May 9 last year and sentenced to two years in jail. Supporters of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama with a placard message that translates to "Freedom for Ahok" out
Supporters of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama with a placard message that translates to "Freedom for Ahok" outside North Jakarta District Court yesterday, as a hardline Muslim group member (above) rallied against the former governor.PHOTO: REUTERS
Basuki, better known as Ahok, was found guilty of insulting Islam by a Jakarta district court on May 9 last year and sentenced to two years in jail. Supporters of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama with a placard message that translates to "Freedom for Ahok" out
Basuki, better known as Ahok, was found guilty of insulting Islam by a Jakarta district court on May 9 last year and sentenced to two years in jail.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA • Former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama has filed a judicial review against his two-year prison sentence for blasphemy in a bid to overturn his conviction for insulting Islam.

Basuki's sister Fifi Lety Indra, who is acting as his lawyer, told reporters after the court received his review petition yesterday that his conviction and jail sentence were legally flawed as the judges had unfairly overlooked evidence and testimonies submitted by the defence team during his trial last year.

The latest move by Basuki, better known by his Chinese nickname Ahok, marks a turnaround from his decision not to appeal against his sentence last May, and caused hundreds of Islamist protesters to gather outside North Jakarta District Court yesterday morning.

According to Ms Fifi, his decision to challenge his conviction came after former lecturer Buni Yani was found guilty last November of inciting religious and ethnic tension, but yet was not ordered to immediately serve his 18-month prison sentence.

The case against Buni centred on a video of a speech which Basuki, a Christian, delivered in September 2016. In the video, edited and uploaded online by Buni, Basuki told constituents that they should not be misled by his political opponents, who urged Muslims to reject a non-Muslim leader.

A vital part of Basuki's comments was edited out of the video by Buni, creating the perception that his remarks were directed at the Quran, rather than his political opponents.

Basuki was found guilty of insulting Islam by a Jakarta district court on May 9 last year and sentenced to two years in jail despite state prosecutors recommending that he serve probation for the offence.

"There are several points on which we base our judicial review. Ahok was immediately sent to jail even though we had said we would appeal - a stark difference compared with other cases we have seen," said Ms Fifi yesterday.

She said Basuki did not appeal against his conviction and jail sentence earlier because he wanted to prevent an escalation of public tension at the time.

"Back then, the heat and tension were high. Ahok did not want to see a clash between his supporters and haters, and opted instead to sacrifice himself by spending his time in jail," she said.

The court has up to next Monday to decide if Basuki's petition meets the requirements for a Peninjauan Kembali, or judicial review, by the Supreme Court. , which will hear the case only if there was a serious misapplication of the law in the lower courts or negligence by the judges; or if there is newly discovered evidence not previously considered by the lower courts.

Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2018, with the headline 'Ex-Jakarta governor challenges blasphemy conviction'. Print Edition | Subscribe