Former Jakarta Governor Basuki Ahok “Tjahaja” Purnama was sentenced to two years in prison on May 9, 2017, at the conclusion of his extremely controversial blasphemy trial. Due to having already received some standard remissions to his sentence, Ahok is actually already eligible for parole as early as next month (prisoners in Indonesia are generally eligible for parole after serving two-thirds of their sentences).
However, Fifi Lety Indra, Ahok’s sister and one of his legal representatives, confirmed through her personal Instagram account that while Ahok was eligible for parole in August, he would not be taking the option.
The news that Ahok would not be applying for parole was also confirmed by Indonesia’s director general of corrections, Sri Puguh Budi Utami.
Andika D Prasetya, the head of Cipinang Prison (under whose authority Ahok is technically under, although Ahok is actually serving out his sentence in the Brimob HQ Detention Center in Depok due to safety concerns) calculated that if Ahok did not receive parole and continued serving his sentence in prison, he would be released on April 23, 2019.
So the obvious question is, why would Ahok choose to stay in prison for so many more months?
“It’s risky, better he just finish his writings and replying to letters from Ahokers (a term for Ahok supporter)”, said Ahok’s adoptive sister, Nana Riwayatie, as quoted by Detik yesterday.
Nana also mentioned that Ahok was writing a book in prison and that he had said that finishing the book was more important than getting parole.
As devoted to his book and responding to his supporters as he may be, we’re pretty sure nobody would buy that as being the main reason Ahok, a father of two, would choose to spend that much longer behind bars and away from his family (although he did recently go through a messy public divorce from his wife, Veronica Tan, while in prison).
Without more direct comment from Ahok we can only speculate further, but we’d guess that it is largely due to political considerations. Were Ahok to apply for and receive parole next month, we have little doubt it would become a huge controversy that would be seized upon by the same Islamist political groups that rallied to have Ahok imprisoned in the first place and used to attack President Joko Widodo by claiming that he was being soft on the “religious blasphemer”.
While Ahok would no doubt prefer to avoid further controversy upon leaving prison, we can’t help but think this is primarily being done for the benefit of Jokowi, who could be facing a tough reelection campaign next year (the 2019 election takes place on April 19, just a few days before Ahok’s release from prison on April 23 were he to serve out his full sentence).
Considering how little Jokowi did to help his former vice governor after Ahok’s blasphemy controversy blew up, such a huge sacrifice seems unearned. Is Ahok truly that noble, or is he perhaps planning a move back into politics once he is out of prison and Jokowi is safely in power for a second term?
When asked about Ahok’s post jail plans, his sister Nana told Detik that he was interested in getting into business and marrying again, but couldn’t say beyond that.
“(He wants to) get married again and get busy with work again. As for politics, I don’t know if he wants to get back into that or not.”