Former Jakarta governor likely to serve out blasphemy sentence after appeal rejected

Jailed former Jakarta Gov. Basuki “Ahok” TjaHajja Purnama. (AFP)
Updated 28 March 2018

Former Jakarta governor likely to serve out blasphemy sentence after appeal rejected

JAKARTA: Jailed former Jakarta Gov. Basuki “Ahok” TjaHajja Purnama has a slim chance of cutting his two-year blasphemy conviction short after the Supreme Court rejected his petition for a case review, but he still has a chance to return to politics.
A Supreme Court spokesman confirmed to Arab News that a panel of three judges — Artidjo Alkostar, Salman Luthan and Sumadijatmo — rejected Purnama’s petition for an appeal on Monday.
“The appeal has been rejected because the arguments put forward by Ahok’s lawyers did not meet the requirements for a case review,” the spokesman said, without detailing the judges’ ruling any further.
Hendri Satrio, a political analyst from Paramadina University in Jakarta, told Arab News that as detrimental as the ruling may be to Purnama, the Supreme Court’s ruling was apolitical.
“But it doesn’t mean that he would not be able to return to politics after he finishes his sentence. He has some loyal supporters to back him,” Satrio said.
Purnama’s legal team declined to comment on the ruling.
“We can’t comment on anything since we have not received official documents on the ruling from the court,” one of Purnama’s lawyers, Josefina Syukur, told Arab News.
Purnama’s lawyers filed the case review in February after passing up an earlier chance, available within two weeks at a lower court, to challenge the verdict after the North Jakarta District Court convicted him in May last year.
Ahok has switched political sides many times as he made his way to national prominence. He briefly served as district head of East Belitung in Bangka Belitung province and resigned from the position in 2017 to run as governor for the province, which he lost.
He was then elected in 2009 as a legislator to the House of Representatives representing Golkar Party, but he switched sides to the Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Party and became the running mate of Joko Widodo in the 2012 Jakarta governor’s election. The pair won the election and he inherited the governorship in 2014 when Widodo left the position after winnning the presidential election.
Purnama was seeking to be elected Jakarta governor in his own right with a nomination ticket from the ruling Indonesia Democratic Party of Struggle in the 2017 election when he made remarks deemed as blasphemous to Islam at an official city event in September 2016.
In the viral clip edited by communications lecturer Buni Yani, Purnama told attendees at the event that people might “fool them” using the Qur’an’s Surah Al-Maida Verse 51 into not voting for him — a Christian and from the Chinese ethnic minority.
Ahok proclaimed his innocence, saying he did not mean to offend Muslims by quoting the verse, which was interpreted by some as forbidding Muslims from having non-Muslim leaders.
He underwent an open trial while campaigning for the election. Ahok lost the race to Anies Baswedan and his running mate Sandiaga Uno in April 2017 and was sentenced to two years in prison on blasphemy charges the next month.


Cambodia to ban elephant rides at Angkor temples

Updated 15 November 2019

Cambodia to ban elephant rides at Angkor temples

  • The Angkor archaeological complex in northern Siem Reap attracts the bulk of the kingdom’s tourists
  • Apsara authority plans to end the elephant rides by 2020
PHNOM PENH: Cambodia will ban all elephant rides at the country’s famed Angkor temple park by early next year, an official said Friday, a rare win for conservationists who have long decried the popular practice as cruel.
The Angkor archaeological complex in northern Siem Reap attracts the bulk of the kingdom’s foreign tourists — which topped six million in 2018 — and many opt for elephants rides around the ancient temples.
But these rides “will end by the start of 2020,” said Long Kosal, a spokesman with the Apsara Authority, which manages the park.
“Using elephants for business is not appropriate anymore,” he told AFP, adding that some of the animals were “already old.”
So far, five of the 14 working elephants have been transferred to a community forest about 40 kilometers (25 miles) away from the temples.
“They will live out their natural lives there,” Kosal said.
The company that owns the elephants will continue to look after them, he added.
Cambodia has long come under fire from animal rights groups for ubiquitous elephant rides on offer for tourists, also seen in neighboring Thailand, Vietnam and Laos.
The elephants are broken in during training and rights groups have accused handlers of overworking them.
In 2016, a female elephant died by the roadside after carrying tourists around the Angkor Wat temple complex in severely hot weather.
The animal had been working for around 45 minutes before she collapsed.