TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The prosecution's demand to find Basuki Tjahaja Purnama guilty of a secondary indictment in the much-hyped religious blasphemy case showed that the law enforcers were desperate to force their version of justice down our throats. Having failed to prove the religious defamation charge, it should actually ask the court to drop all charges against Ahokas Basuki is popularly known.
Instead, the prosecution demanded one year jail time with 2 years' probation at the court proceedings last week. It contended that Ahok violated the article 156 of the Criminal Code on making statements that incites animosity and hatred towards one or many groups of people, which in fact was a secondary indictment. In fact, Ahok was found not guilty of the primary charge of violating the article 156a of the code. The prosecution's demand was less severe because if the judge agreed to the proposed sentence, Ahok actually would not need to serve the prison sentence unless he committed a felony during the probation period.
However, the demand will take a nasty turn if the judges find Ahok guilty as he will lose his political rights. The prosecution, after all, concluded that Ahok did not intend to insult Islam when he quoted verse 51 of the Al-Maidah chapter in the Holy Qur'an, during his speech at the Thousand Islands last September. On the other hand, the prosecution's assertion that Ahok's statement incited hatred and animosity as described in Article 156 is still unjustifiable, particularly when it alleges that the statement had triggered hostilities among people of different ethnicities, religious backgrounds, races and groups.
The prosecution pointed out that the Jakarta governor's statement had set off a series of mass rallies calling for his arrest. These protests eventually compelled the police to interrogate him and scores of witnesses as well as a video evidence and to later indict him, seemingly confirming the public's suspicions that the legal system is merely a tool in political negotiations.
The police appeared to have bowed to the pressure of mass rallies when they hastily indicted Ahok without going through a fair and due legal process, notwithstanding their obligation to be neutral, fair and devoid of arbitrary acts. As such, should the case eventually go to the highest court, the panel of judges, both of the lower up to the Supreme Court, should throw out the charges against Ahok.
The bottom line is that the prosecution has failed to prove criminal intent in Ahok's statement and therefore the panel of judges must uphold the benefit of the doubt principle, in which the judge must rule in favor of the defendant as long as there are doubts about his guilt.
Ahok's trial should not have taken place in the first place. Everyone is entitled to opinions as stipulated in the International Covenant on Human and Civil Rights, which the Indonesian government ratified through Law No. 12/2005. The covenant recognizes individual rights to express opinions: including the right to seek, receive and share information and/or thoughts.
The case should serve as an impetus for the government to eliminate ambiguous clauses from the Criminal Code. It has shown that laws seemingly enacted to protect people of different religious backgrounds have, in fact, led to divisiveness. Hence, there is no justification to keep clauses that are open to multiple interpretations from Indonesia's legal system. (*)
Read the full story in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine