Jakarta court grants ex-governor Ahok's divorce request, custody of 2 younger children

Former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama filed for divorce from Madam Veronica Tan on Jan 8. Basuki was granted custody of their two younger children. PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA - A Jakarta court on Wednesday (April 4) granted a divorce request by former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama on the grounds that there was adequate evidence of infidelity by his wife Veronica Tan.

The three-judge panel also granted Basuki, popularly known by his Chinese name Ahok, custody of their two younger children.

Presiding judge Sutaji said they accepted the reasons Basuki put forward - that the marriage is no longer harmonious due to his wife's love affair with a man named Mr Julianto Tio.

Among the evidence submitted by Basuki's lawyers were copies of mobile phone chats between Madam Tan and Mr Tio.

"The conversation between third person Julianto Tio and the petitioner's wife as exhibited by evidence item 6 through item 12 (in the form of photos of chats from a mobile messaging application) reveal a close and special relationship. We deem these evidence as valid," judge Sutaji said in the verdict.

Madam Tan continued to see Mr Tio despite being told repeatedly to stop the relations, the presiding judge said, citing witnesses who testified during the course of the trial that began in late January.

Basuki, 51, filed for divorce from Madam Tan, 40, on Jan 8. They were married in 1997 and have three children - Nicholas Sean, 19; Nathania Berniece, 16; and Daud Albeenner, 11.

The former governor will gain custody of Nathania and Daud Albeenner - who are considered minors under Indonesian law because they are below 17 years of age - after he finishes his jail term.

Basuki was sentenced to two years in jail for blasphemy in May last year (2017). The controversial sentence was handed down weeks after he lost the Jakarta gubernatorial election.

He was deputy governor of Jakarta before he took over as governor in 2014 after his former running mate, Mr Joko Widodo, was elected president of Indonesia.


Ms Fifi Lety Indra, Basuki's sister and his lawyer in the divorce case, previously said in January that his decision to end their 20-year-long relationship was due to a suspected affair that Madam Tan had with Mr Tio, who she identified as a former school friend of Madam Tan's sister.

Reports have said Mr Tio was a businessman who was also married.

According to Ms Fifi, the affair between the two lasted seven years.

Describing Mr Tio as a "deadly seducer", she said Basuki had exhausted all efforts to keep the family together, including confronting Mr Tio in 2016 to leave his wife alone for the sake of both mar­riages. But when confronted, Mr Tio denied having a romantic relationship with Madam Tan and the two continued to contact each other.

"They allegedly have had relations for the past seven years, and Ahok and his son met Julianto around 2016 to tell him to keep away. That time, Julianto said he was only a good friend," Ms Fifi told reporters then.

She said the problem with their marriage escalated when Basuki found out that his wife had gone to Singapore separately on the same date that Mr Julianto had also travelled to Singapore.

"The problem went on and on to the point that Ahok finally decided to give up. What we need to make it clear is Veronica has fallen a victim to Julianto Tio's deadly sweet talks," Ms Fifi added.

Ms Fifi said Basuki kept silent about the affair, even from his friends and family. She said she had only found out about the infidelity in November.

She said the family had originally planned to keep the affair a secret but were forced to make the affair public after rumours about the marriage began swirling following news of the divorce. There had been speculation the divorce was due to Madam Tan's unhappiness over Basuki's plan to make a political comeback after his prison stint and that it was a ploy for public sympathy following Basuki's imprisonment.

Throughout the divorce hearing, neither Mr Basuki nor Madam Tan turned up in court. Madam Tan did not appoint any lawyer to represent her, while Mr Tio also did not attend the hearings.

On Dec 4 last year (2017), a photo of Madam Tan was posted on Basuki's official Instagram account, along with a short message to greet her a happy birthday.

The couple met in church after Basuki, then 30, met then 19-year-old Veronica at the Kristus Yesus church choir in Pluit, North Jakarta. She had been a member of the church choir, while Basuki was in the church committee. Basuki reportedly fell for her after hearing her singing and playing church songs while Madam Tan was impressed with his firm and resolute character.

Basuki once spoke of his marriage, telling the Kompas news website in 2016 that he does not consider himself a romantic. He said as a couple, they had never once celebrated Valentine's Day due to his busy political schedule. He added that they rarely had any disagreements and when they did, those usually did not last long.

"The most important thing is that the couple must be willing to forgive and forget and accept the partner no matter what," he was quoted saying.

Madam Tan, too, once shared fond words about their marriage. In a TV show interview with the couple in February 2017 she said: "If we weren't romantic, we wouldn't have had three children," the Viva entertainment website reported.

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