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Jailed former Jakarta governor rejects parole

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama is eligible for four-hour daily parole but is banking on early release

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Jailed former Jakarta governor rejects parole

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (left) with his supporters after the first round of Jakarta governor elections on Feb. 15, 2017. (Photo by Ryan Dagur)

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Jakarta's jailed former Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama will not accept an offer of parole and will instead opt to finish his sentence in the hope of early release, according to his sister.

Purnama, better known as Ahok, is serving a two-year sentence for blasphemy after being accused of referring to the Quran when refuting claims in an election speech that Muslims should not vote for non-Muslim candidates.

He was jailed a few weeks after being defeated in the sectarian-charged Jakarta governor election by his Muslim rival Anies Baswedan. who was backed by hard-line Muslim groups.

According to Indonesian law, he will be eligible for parole in August having served two-thirds of his sentence, which means he could be released for up to four hours a day.

Indonesian prison officials confirmed this, saying it depends on Purnama on whether he wants to accept these terms.

However, Purnama will not accept, according to Fifi Lety Indra, the former governor's sister and lawyer, in a July 11 post on Instagram. "[Instead, he] will wait until his jail term ends," she said.

Purnama was due for release early next year, but he could be released as early as next month when good behavior and other accrued remission factors such as Christian religious holidays are taken into account, she said.

Prior to his downfall, the Chinese-Christian politician was ready to make history as the first elected governor of the Indonesian capital after first assuming office governor while serving as deputy to Joko Widodo, who vacated the post when he became the country's president.

But his straight-talking manner, which made him popular with many, also saw his opponents — including the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front (IDF) — hold mass rallies against him.

"We just pray he has learned his lesson and is more careful in the future," IDF spokesman Slamet Maarif told ucanews.com when commenting on Purnama's possible early release.

Ray Rangkuti, a political analyst, said that although Purnama has been imprisoned, his political career was likely to continue.

"Everyone knows how good he was during his time in office. Many people miss his no-nonsense approach to fixing problems in the bureaucracy," he said. "He still has good chance of making a political comeback."

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