Jakarta’s Christian governor may escape jail for alleged blasphemy after prosecutors today recommended only probation, a day after he lost in a religiously charged run-off that damaged Indonesia’s image as a bastion of tolerant Islam. The recommendation of two years probation in the trial of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, with a possible one-year jail term if he commits a crime during that period, was lighter than expected as he could have been sent to prison for several years.
The sentence demand for allegedly insulting Islam came after he was defeated yesterday by a Muslim challenger who was accused of pandering to hardliners to win votes in the race for the Jakarta governorship. The blasphemy allegations and Purnama’s subsequent poll loss have sparked fears that pluralistic traditions in the world’s most populous Muslim country are under threat from the influence of hardliners, who pushed for the governor’s prosecution during a series of mass protests.
Chief prosecutor Ali Mukartono recommended that Purnama, known by his nickname Ahok, be found guilty of blasphemy and be given two years probation, with a possible one-year jail sentence.
“If within the two years, Ahok doesn’t commit any new criminal act, like corruption, stealing… he will be free,” his lawyer I Wayan Sudirta told AFP.
“If within that two years he does commit a criminal act, he has to serve the one-year jail sentence.”
Prosecutors recommended he be convicted of a lesser blasphemy charge, which carries a maximum of four years jail. They could have recommended a more serious blasphemy charge that carries a jail term of up to five years. To face the more serious charge, a defendant must be accused of having committed the act deliberately.
A sentence recommendation is a normal step in an Indonesian court case, and is usually followed within weeks by a verdict.