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Basuki Tjahaja Purnama or Ahok (2nd from the rear) out of prison car when arrived at the LP Cipinang prison / photo: Antara News

Prosecutor appeals against Ahok’s blasphemy sentence

JAKARTA – On Wednesday (24 May), North Jakarta District Court has sent an appeal against Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama's blasphemy sentence, from the public prosecutor to Jakarta High Court.

The appeal was filed against a verdict handed down by the judges in the trial of a religious blasphemy case with the defendant the Jakarta non-active governor.

Indonesian news Kompas reported that all the files will be delivered yesterday to the Jakarta High Court. "Yes, the file of appeal request from the public prosecutor will be sent and delivered today directly to the High Court," North Jakarta District Court spokesman Hasoloan Sianturi said on Wednesday afternoon

Hasoloan explained, a number of files were to be included in the appeal, such as police investigation reports, court hearings, and a number of cases related letters such as demands, replications, and duplications.

"It means that until now (Wednesday afternoon) the prosecutor has remained in his position of appeal, we will send them in a minute, the files will be sent to the High Court," Hasoloan added.

The prosecutor has said on Tuesday they would soon review their appeal against the blasphemy sentence, however, as of Wednesday afternoon, there was no request by the prosecutor to withdraw the appeal.

One of the reasons for the appeals is the judge's verdict deemed incompatible with the prosecutor's claim. Under Article 67 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the prosecutor may file an appeal if the judge's verdict is inconsistent with the claim.

The North Jakarta District Court had earlier convicted Mr Purnama of being guilty of blasphemy in the religious defamation case. The panel of judge considered Mr Purnama had violated Article 156a of the Criminal Code with the threat of imprisonment of two years in prison. The verdict was higher than the prosecutor's charges, which only asked for a sentence of one year in prison and two years probation.

It means the North Jakarta District Court's guilty verdict on Mr Purnama is not yet legally binding, despite his defense team having withdrawn its own appeal.

On his part, Mr Purnama has revoked his appeal for the two-year sentence from the North Jakarta District Court in the blasphemy case.

Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama / photo: ahokfornobel.com

A right direction in justice system

The Jakarta Globe reported a legal expert welcomed the appeal of the public prosecutor.

Mika Vaswani, a former public prosecutor at the Attorney-General's Chambers of Singapore said, "The prosecution is filing an appeal on the grounds that the sentence is manifestly excessive."

"There is a misconception that the prosecution's goal is to seek the harshest possible sentence… but that is not true. The prosecution has a duty to seek a sentence that is just and proportional to the crime committed," Ms Vaswani said.

Ms Vaswani pointed that this is a step in the right direction, proving that the prosecution is prepared to stay impartial in the interest of justice. "The very fact that the prosecution decided to appeal the sentence is a positive sign, restoring faith and credibility in the criminal justice system in Indonesia," she said.

"The decision to appeal the sentence, whether it be manifestly inadequate or excessive, would apply whether or not the convicted person is a governor or layman."

"For a criminal justice system to evolve, decisions must be challenged and judges must be held accountable and all parties must be prepared to justify the decisions reached to a higher authority," she added.