Former Jakarta Governor Ahok files for appeal almost 1 year after controversial blasphemy conviction

Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama is seen inside a court during his trial for blasphemy in Jakarta, Indonesia May 9, 2017 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/ Sigid Kurniawan/via REUTERS
Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama is seen inside a court during his trial for blasphemy in Jakarta, Indonesia May 9, 2017 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/ Sigid Kurniawan/via REUTERS

Former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama’s controversial blasphemy case has taken yet another unexpected turn even after he has served almost half of his 2-year sentence for blasphemy.

When the North Jakarta District Court controversially found Ahok guilty and handed him a sentence that exceeded that which was demanded by prosecutors in May 2017, the former governor and his legal team decided not to launch an appeal — a decision that legal analysts believe was made to eliminate risks of Ahok being handed a heavier sentence and having his right to run for public office revoked.

Even the case prosecutors, who demanded that Ahok be given a 2-year probationary sentence, filed an appeal against the judges’ decision, only to withdraw it soon after.

But today, it has been revealed in the media that Ahok’s lawyers recently filed an appeal on their client’s behalf, as confirmed by the Supreme Court.

“It’s true that on February 2, 2018, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama’s legal advisors filed an appeal to the Indonesian Supreme Court through the District Court that handleded the decision, in this case the North Jakarta District Court,” said Abdullah, head of the Public Relations Department in the Supreme Court, as quoted by Liputan 6 today.

Abdullah said the appeal request came in the form of a handwritten letter from Ahok’s lawyers, Josefina A Syukur and Fifi Lety Indra — the latter being Ahok’s sister.

The North Jakarta District Court, where the appeal trial is going to be held, said that the first hearing is scheduled for Feb. 26.

Neither Josefina nor Fifi have spoken publicly to reveal their reasons for filing the appeal so far into Ahok’s prison sentence, but common sense would suggest that the only reason why anyone would be confident enough to launch an appeal this long after the ruling is because they can present new, irrefutable evidence proving Ahok’s innocence or evidence that the court presiding Ahok’s blasphemy trial was somehow compromised.

In September 2016, Ahok was reported to the police for blasphemy after a video of a speech he gave in Jakarta’s Pulau Seribu district was circulated online in which he told the audience that his political opponents used a contentious interpretation of a Quranic verse to convince people not to vote for non-Muslim public officials. Ahok was sentenced to two years in prison after being found guilty of blasphemy against Islam by the North Jakarta District Court on May 9, 2017.

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