The Jakarta Police believe legal proceedings against embattled governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama are adding to alreadyheightened public tension in the lead-up to the gubernatorial runoff election on April 19.
As part of efforts to ensure a safe and peaceful election, Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. M. Iriawan has sent a letter to the North Jakarta District Court, requesting that it postpone further hearings of Ahok’s trial, given the vulnerable security conditions in the capital.
The postponement was necessary because police and military personnel would have to start shifting their focus to safeguarding the election, he said.
“We suggest that the prosecution’s sentence demands in Ahok’s blasphemy trial be postponed until after the runoff,” Iriawan said in the letter made available to The Jakarta Post on Thursday. The letter was also sent to the chief justice of the Supreme Court, the National Police chief, the police’s general supervision inspector, the Jakarta High Court head and the attorney general.
Late last year, police requested that the trial be moved from the North Jakarta District Court to the Agriculture Ministry’s main hall in South Jakarta due to security concerns.
Based on an initial schedule, prosecutors are expected to make their sentence demands on March 11, while the defendant is scheduled to read out his defense statement on April 17, just two days before the runoff.
The campaign period, which runs from March 7 until April 15, has been dominated by religious sentiment and racial bigotry resulting from the blasphemy allegations against the governor, who is a Christian of Chinese descent.
In early March, some local mosques displayed banners saying that those who voted for “blasphemers” would not be entitled to Islamic funeral rites and prayers when they died.
Less than three weeks before the election, thousands of people staged a rally called “313” in reference to the date to demand the incarceration of Ahok.
Further, there is the antiAhok Tamasya Al-Maidah movement, facilitated through an application available on Playstore, which encourages Muslims from across the country to flock to polling stations to supervise the election.
Separately, Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Argo Yuwono said the police’s letter was issued to ensure voting day would pass safely, especially given the fact that Ahok’s scheduled hearing on March 17 would take place in the cooling-off period between March 16 and March 18.
Separately, North Jakarta District Court spokesman Hasoloan Sianturi said the court had received the letter, but in accordance with a decision made by judges in an April 4 hearing, the trial would continue on April 11.
The decision to postpone hearings could only be made in the courtroom, he added.
Ahok’s lawyer Fifi Lety Indra said the governor’s legal team would comply with the court’s decision regarding the next hearing.
Besides requesting the court to postpone Ahok’s hearing, Gen. M. Iriawan also informed the court that the police would postpone their interrogation of Ahok’s rival candidate pair, Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno, who have also been reported to the police for several alleged violations.
Ahok’s legal team reported Anies for alleged defamation on Wednesday after the candidate publicly claimed that Ahok would evict the residents of 300 areas across the city if he was reelected as Jakarta governor.
Sandiaga was reported by a person named Edward S Soeryadjaya to the Jakarta Police for alleged embezzlement and receipt forgery.
A campaign team member of Anies and Sandiaga, Yupen Hadi, said the team appreciated the police’s order.--The Jakarta Post