April 20, 2017 8:37 pm JST

Prosecutors seek probation for Jakarta's fallen governor

Purnama poised to avoid prison over blasphemy charges that doomed reelection bid

WATARU SUZUKI, Nikkei staff writer

Jakarta Gov. Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama takes his seat for his court hearing in Jakarta on April 20. © Reuters

JAKARTA -- Indonesian prosecutors on Thursday recommended two years of probation for Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the outgoing Jakarta governor accused of blasphemy against Islam. 

Purnama, an ethnic-Chinese Christian known by the nickname Ahok, should face one year in jail if he commits blasphemy again, the prosecutors said.

The prosecution's demands are much lighter than the maximum of five years in prison, leaving open the possibility for Purnama to make a political comeback after his crushing defeat in Jakarta's gubernatorial runoff on Wednesday. Purnama is seen as a key ally of President Joko Widodo, having served as a deputy during Widodo's tenure as Jakarta governor.

Last September, Purnama criticized people who cited a verse from the Quran to discourage Muslims from voting for him. A video of the governor's remarks was posted online and sparked a massive backlash, including large street demonstrations.

The controversy is considered the key factor behind Purnama's election loss to Anies Baswedan, a former education minister. Baswedan courted support from conservative Muslim groups as opposition to Purnama gained steam.

State prosecutor Ali Mukartono said that while Purnama caused "public unrest" by committing blasphemy, he was cooperative during the trial and contributed to the development of Jakarta.

Mukartono added that Buni Yani, the man who edited and uploaded the video of Purnama's remarks, also contributed to the public outcry.

The court has yet to deliver a verdict. Purnama's lawyers are scheduled to respond to the prosecutors' demands at the next hearing, scheduled for next Tuesday.

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