Update COVID-19 in Indonesia: 1,298,608 confirmed infections, 35,014 deaths (23 February 2021)
23 February 2021 (closed)
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It is no surprise that Jakarta prosecution only demands a relatively light sentence for incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (better known by his nickname Ahok) for his alleged blasphemous speech in late-2016. On Thursday (20/04) prosecution announced their recommendation of two years of probation for Ahok. The announcement came (deliberately) one day after the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election. Based on the quick count results Ahok was defeated by Anies Baswedan in this election and so we assume that this blasphemy trial has now lost its significance.
When a Facebook user named Buni Yani uploaded a manipulated video accompanied by a manipulative text in which Jakarta Governor Ahok is seemingly criticizing a specific verse in the Islamic Al Quran, conservative (hardline) Muslims and political opponents of Ahok used this video as a strategy to topple Ahok. Several huge demonstrations were organized between November 2016 and March 2017 in the capital city of Jakarta in which protesters (mostly consisting of hardline Muslims) demanded the arrest of Ahok. Under great pressure the Jakarta prosecution went ahead with the trial although being hesitant to demand a sentence.
All news coverage surrounding these demonstrations and Ahok's blasphemy trial did manage to undermine popularity of Ahok in Jakarta. In mid-2016 Ahok was still leading most opinion polls and surveys by a significant margin. His ratings dropped, however, as there emerged heavy resistance to Ahok from hardline Muslims on the streets of Jakarta.
Prosecutors' demand for Ahok (two years probation) is relatively light considering the maximum penalty for blasphemy in Indonesia is five years in prison (prosecutors demand a one year prison sentence if Ahok violates his probation). It is an indication that prosecutors actually did not think much of the case. But it is very alarming that radical Islam in Indonesia (by organizing big demonstrations) can influence the decision of prosecution to prosecute and therefore even have an impact on important political events within the country.
The loss of Ahok in the Jakarta gubernatorial is therefore believed to be a "good thing" for Jakarta prosecution as its light demand will now probably not meet fierce criticism from hardline Muslims. Meanwhile, a heavy sentence demand would ignite criticism from pro-Ahok and neutral communities.