More than nine months after being convicted of blasphemy, former Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama has officially challenged his conviction through a case review petition to the Supreme Court.
The preliminary hearing of the petition, which lasted only 10 minutes, was held at the North Jakarta District Court on Monday. The Supreme Court justices will later decide whether or not to grant Ahok’s case review petition.
The hearing at the North Jakarta District Court was presided over by Judge Mulyadi, who had previously presided over his trial at the district level.
Speaking to reporters after Monday's hearing, Ahok's lawyer and sister, Fifi Letya Indra, said she believed the North Jakarta District Court had made a mistake in declaring Ahok guilty of blasphemy.
She said the guilty verdict against Buni Yani, a communications lecturer found guilty of tampering with video footage of a speech given by Ahok that was used as evidence to lodge the blasphemy allegations against the former Jakarta governor, was the basis for the case review request.
"The legal argument for our petition is that the judges [at the district level] made a mistake in their verdict [on Ahok], particularly in relation to Buni Yani's verdict." she said, adding that the defense team also had other legal arguments to support their petition.
"We have six to seven points to make."
Ahok was found guilty of blasphemy and sentenced to two years in prison on May 9 following a series of rallies by conservative groups who believe he had commited blasphemy againt the Qur’an when he said some people “were deceived” by other people “using Al-Maidah 51”, a Qur’anic verse some clerics say prohibits Muslims from electing a non-Muslim as leader.
He was charged with blasphemy under Article 156a of the Criminal Code, which carries a maximum punishment of five years’ imprisonment. According to the 2017 Election Law, a person charged with a felony punishable by five years’ imprisonment is barred from running as president or vice president.
The Bandung District Court, meanwhile, sentenced Buni Yani to 18 months in prison for breaching the nation's Cyber Law, on Nov. 14, 2017.
Ahok did not appeal his conviction at the appellate courts, while Buni Yani did. Ahok’s verdict is now final and binding and thus eligible for a review.
The prosecutors told reporters after the hearing that the defense team had not brought new evidence to back up their latest legal move.
Ahok’s case and Buni Yani’s case were not related, prosecutor Sapta Subrata said. “Ahok was guilty of blasphemy, while Buni Yani was guilty of tampering with a video that was not his.”
He added that prosecution of Ahok’s case did not affect Buni Yani’s case and vice versa. “The evidence in Buni Yani’s case is part of a speech cited by Buni Yani, it was not used as evidence in Ahok’s trial.”
The district court’s verdict on Ahok was correct, he said.
Judge Mulyadi, however, said that the prosecutors had two to three days to give their response before he sent the case review petition to the Supreme Court justices.
"We do not have the authority to grant a case review petition. It's the Supreme Court's authority. We just examine the administrative requirements," the judge said.
Security personnel from the Indonesian Military (TNI) and the National Police were seen guarding the North Jakarta District Court on Jl. Gajah Mada in Central Jakarta from Monday morning.
Supporters of Ahok came to the court wearing red clothes while those opposed to the former governor came dressed in white clothes.