The ensuing drama on Jakarta Governor Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama on his alleged blasphemy against Islam and the consequent mass protests against him has been in the limelight for months now. Surely, its coverage will dominate the news even more when the trial begins this Tuesday, December 13, at the North Jakarta District Court.
It’s no surprise that the story surrounding the Jakarta governor and his blasphemy case has gone controversial over the past few months. What has surprised majority of those following the timeline of the case and knowledgeable about the nature of the Indonesian legal system is how fast everything has been progressing so far.
It was only two weeks ago when Ahok was officially identified by the police as a suspect and only last week when the case file was submitted to state prosecutors for review. The entire process normally takes several months. As such, many are curious as to what strings were pulled to expedite the process on Ahok’s blasphemy case.
Jakarta lawyer Otto Hasibuan told reporters that while there is nothing illegal about it, the acceleration of Ahok’s case is unusual. He explained that with the dense political overtones surrounding the case and with the trial happening alongside the Jakarta election campaign season, these circumstances cannot be avoided.
The trial, which starts on Tuesday, December 13, will be made open to the public and the media. With the huge spotlight on the case, it won’t be too surprising if it surpasses the murder trial of Jessica Wongso, which was the country’s most watched trial for 2016 and dubbed as ‘trial of the century.’
At his campaign headquarters in Rumah Lembang, Menteng, Ahok told reporters he is looking forward to the trial to be broadcasted live as he is eager for the entire country to hear his own defense. He said it should be open to the public so people will know that he “never intended to degrade any religion.”
National Police Chief Tito Karnavian is expecting mobs of protesters to deluge the courthouse during the trial, referring to the trial as a ‘magnet of the masses.’ The police chief said they will have security measures put in place in preparation for the event.
Indonesian blasphemy case expert Dr Melissa Crouch of Indonesia at Melbourne explained that with the offense of blasphemy attracting a sentence of up to five years, Ahok will no longer be eligible to run in the gubernatorial elections if he is convicted of the crime.
What remains to be seen now is whether or not Ahok will get a fair trial, considering how susceptible the Indonesian judicial system is to public pressure.