Head of Islamist 212 alumni group named suspect by police for campaigning violation

Protesters gather at Jakarta’s National Monument park as part of a rally against Jakarta’s former Christian Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama on December 2, 2016. Photo: AFP
Protesters gather at Jakarta’s National Monument park as part of a rally against Jakarta’s former Christian Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama on December 2, 2016. Photo: AFP

The head of the 212 Alumni Brotherhood (PA 212), Slamet Maarif, once helped lead the mass protests that helped put Basuki “BTP” Tjahaja Purnama (the former Jakarta governor formerly known as “Ahok”) behind bars on a heavily politicized charge of blasphemy. Now, Slamet faces potential prison time himself after being named a suspect by police for on what his supporters claim are politicized charges of illegal campaigning.

Police in the city of Surakarta (aka Solo, the hometown of President Joko Widodo) have officially named Slamet a suspect for violating laws regarding political campaigning outside of designated campaign periods. He had previously been named a witness in the case and was interrogated by the Surakarta Police about it last week.

“From the results of the investigation, [Slamat’s] status was upgraded to suspect on Friday,” said Surakarta Police spokesperson Andy Rifai today as quoted by Kompas.

Andy said that a more thorough questioning of Slamet’s role in the alleged violation would take place during another interrogation session Wednesday.

Ahmad Michdan, one of Slamet’s legal representatives, said he was shocked that his client had been named a suspect and was being investigated when similar cases  — involving allegations of illegal campaigning by two members of Jokowi’s cabinet, Coordinating Minister of Maritime Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan and Finance Minister Sri Mulyani for allegedly flashing “two finger” salutes (that just happen to look exactly like the peace sign hand gesture) in support of Jokowi at an International Monetary Fund event last year —  did not lead to criminal charges.

Slamet was reported to the Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) for allegedly telling a crowd of supporters to vote and mentioned the controversial “2019 Change President” tagline during a PA 212 rally in Surakarta on Sunday, January 13.

Despite not specifically telling the crowd to vote for Jokowi’s election rival, Prabowo Subianto, police seem to have decided that what Slamet said fulfilled the definition of campaigning that is prohibited outside of designated campaign periods.

Slamet has been named a suspected for violating two articles of the Election Law and could face up to two years in prison if found guilty.

The 212 political movement, so named for the massive protest on 2/12/2016 against former governor BTP, was predicted by some to become a political force to be reckoned with in Indonesia after the protests against BTP proved instrumental in defeating him in the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election.

But since then, the 212 movement’s ability to get hardline Islamist goals on the national political agenda has largely failed, as in-fighting divided its leaders and their main political patron, Prabowo, ignored their running mate recommendation to pick businessman Sandiaga Uno.

Nevertheless, Prabowo’s campaign still has the support of PA 212 as well as affiliated hardliner organizations such as the infamous Islamic Defenders Front (FPI). A spokesperson for the campaign said that there was a danger that the charges against Slamet could be seen as unfairly politicized by Jokowi’s administration.

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