Why is Ahok in prison? A legal analysis of the decision

On 9 May, the North Jakarta District Court found that Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama had violated Article 156a of the Criminal Code (KUHP) and sentenced him to two years in prison. Photo by Dharma Wijayanto.
Gubernur nonaktif DKI Jakarta Basuki Tjahaja Purnama atau Ahok bersiap menjalani persidangan lanjutan kasus dugaan penistaan agama di auditorium Kementerian Pertanian, Jakarta, Selasa (3/1). Ahok menjalani sidang lanjutan dengan agenda pemeriksaan saksi. ANTARA FOTO/POOL/Dharma Wijayanto/kye/16.

Why is Ahok in prison? A legal analysis of the decision by Simon Butt, 06/06/2017, Indonesia at Melbourne

Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama has had a rough few months. Until recently, the Christian and ethnic Chinese Ahok was the governor of Jakarta – and one of the most committed reformers and effective administrators to ever lead the capital. In April, he lost a run-off election for governor, for a second term that would have begun in October. Then, on 9 May, he was convicted for blasphemy, in what was the most significant use of Indonesia’s blasphemy laws for political ends in the country’s history. The election loss and his trial were undeniably linked.

The blasphemy charges were clearly brought against him to undermine his chances of election. Worse, they related to his alleged misuse of a Qur’anic verse that the Indonesian Council of Ulama (MUI) and Islamist groups say prohibits Muslims from electing a non-Muslim as a leader. So every mention of his blasphemy case reinforced the message of his unelectability.

Many commentators have looked at the broader implications of Ahok’s loss and his conviction for blasphemy. In this article, I instead offer a legal analysis of the decision itself. What arguments did the court hear and what did it accept?

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