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Jakarta's Jailed Former Governor Drops Appeal in Blasphemy Case

  • Eva Mazrieva

Veronica Tan, the wife of Jakarta's former governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as "Ahok," weeps during a news conference in Jakarta, May 23, 2017 in this photo taken by Antara Foto.

The family of Basuki Tjahaya Purnama and his lawyers on Tuesday announced the recently defeated governor of Jakarta better known as "Ahok" had revoked the decision to appeal a two-year sentence for blasphemy handed down by the North Jakarta District Court.

Ahok's wife, Veronica Tan, delivered the notice to the court Monday. She did not comment on the decision, which was filed less than an hour after Purnama's legal team filed paperwork for the appeal, according to local media.

On Tuesday, she cried as she read a statement written by her husband.

"I know it's not easy for you to accept this fact, much less me," she said at a news conference, quoting her husband. "But I have learned to forgive and accept all this, for the good of the nation and the state."

Respect for Ramadan

Ahok's sister, Fifi Lety Indra, who is part of his legal team, told VOA Indonesia late Monday that her brother opted out of the appeal in part to end demonstrations on his behalf and out of respect for Ramadan, which begins Friday.

There was also the chance that if the appeal failed, he would receive a longer sentence.

His decision "benefits all interested parties," his sister said.

FILE - Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, center, is escorted by prosecutors as enters the courtroom for his sentencing hearing in Jakarta, Indonesia, May 9, 2017.
FILE - Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, center, is escorted by prosecutors as enters the courtroom for his sentencing hearing in Jakarta, Indonesia, May 9, 2017.

Ahok was put on trial in December over accusations that he insulted Islam while campaigning on one of the islands near the capital, Jakarta. Ahok quoted a verse in the Quran to prove to his supporters that there were no restrictions on Muslims voting for non-Muslim politicians. His statement was edited and widely spread in social media, triggering demonstrations. As he campaigned, he faced protesters demanding that he be jailed or executed.

The blasphemy allegations against Purnama, a Chinese Christian, sparked mass protests spearheaded by conservative Muslims during the governor's race and the runoff vote.

Election loss

The blasphemy sentence, which is more than prosecutors sought, came on May 9, less than a month after he lost his election bid to stay in his position as Jakarta's governor. Purnama lost to Anies Baswedan, a university rector and former minister of education and culture, who courted the conservative Islamic vote.

Purnama called on Indonesians to uphold the rule of law, said his sister, adding that he was grateful for his supporters' faith in him.

"He considered it carefully," said his sister. "He is a fighter, but he considers other people's feelings, and the fasting month [Ramadan] will come soon. If he did not revoke the appeal, the demonstration will continue."

Purnama's family has accepted his decision, said his sister. "We are ready. We have explained it to the children that their father is not corrupt; he is slandered, he was treated unfairly. We told them that 'you must uphold your head because your father defends the constitution.' He is a hard worker. He is the leader. They understand."

This story originated on VOA's Indonesia service.

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