Jakarta. Prosecutors demanded a two-year probation period with a possible one-year jail term for Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama at the North Jakarta District Court on Thursday (20/04), downgrading the charge against the embattled governor.
Ahok had been facing blasphemy charges since November last year after saying during a speech on Pramuka Island that his political rivals have been quoting verse 51 of the Koran's Al-Maidah chapter to turn people against him.
The governor reportedly told Pramuka Island residents that "maybe deep in your hearts you feel you cannot choose me [as leader] because you've been tricked using Al-Maidah: 51."
However, during a court hearing on Thursday prosecutors chose not to charge Ahok with Article 156a of the Criminal Code on blasphemy, explaining that Ahok's criticism was directed at people, not the Koran.
The prosecutors instead reduced the charge to Article 156 where the prosecution must prove that the accused publicly expressed feelings of hostility, hatred or contempt against one or more groups of the population of Indonesia.
Prosecutor Ali Murkatono said Ahok's speech had created an unnecessary public uproar and that the governor insisted on a singular interpretation of the Al-Maidah verse.
Ali also singled out Buni Yani — the Facebook user who initially edited and uploaded a video of Ahok's speech — for stirring up the public controversy.
The reduced charge carries a lighter maximum sentence and also no longer requires that the prosecution prove that the accused "deliberately" committed the act.
The prosecution recommended that the court sentence Ahok to a two-year probationary period, if the court were to find him guilty. If he breaches the probation order, he would then be required to serve a one-year jail sentence, the prosecution said.
Ahok will respond to the prosecution's recommended sentence at the next hearing, scheduled for April 25.
"My lawyers and I will deliver our statements then," Ahok said.
Ahok will most likely stay on as governor of Jakarta until October — when he will make way for presumed governor-elect Anies Baswedan — since according to regulation a regional leader can only be dismissed from the post if he is involved in a criminal charge where prosecutors demand at least a five-year jail term for his crime.
According to quick count results provided by several pollsters, Ahok and his deputy Djarot Saiful Hidayat lost the second round of the Jakarta gubernatorial election by a large margin of 12 percent to 16 percent.
Ahok congratulated his rival Anies Baswedan and running mate Sandiaga Uno on their victory during a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.
Correction: the previous version of this article said that the prosecution demanded a one-year jail term with a two-year probation period. The Jakarta Globe apologizes for this error.