Published: Thu, May 11, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Jakarta's Christian governor found guilty in Islam blasphemy trial

Jakarta's Christian governor found guilty in Islam blasphemy trial

An Indonesian court on Tuesday sentenced former governor of Jakarta Basuki Purnama to two years in prison for blasphemy against Islam.

However, President Joko Widodo, who is a key ally of Purnama, had called for restraint over the trial and urged all sides to respect the legal process.

Protesters opposed to Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama in front of the Supreme Court in Jakarta, Indonesia, May 5, 2017.

As reported, Ahok, who is is ethnic Chinese and the first Christian in almost 50 years to govern Indonesia's capital, was found guilty of violating Indonesia's blasphemy laws during a speech to fishermen in September.

The head judge Santiarto also denied that the case had political aspects and said the trial was purely criminal.

Ahok was accused of blasphemy previous year when a video surfaced of him telling voters they were being deceived if they believed a specific verse in the Quran prohibited Muslims from electing a non-Muslim as leader.

Even prosecutors called for the blasphemy counts to be dropped for a lesser charge of "spreading hate", but the judges ignored that recommendation as the Non-Muslim persecution continued.

The maximum sentence for blasphemy in Muslim-majority Indonesia is five years in prison.

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Indonesia's blasphemy controversy emerged in September, when an incorrectly-subtitled video of the governor criticizing those who claim that the Qur'an prohibits Muslims from having a non-Muslim leader surfaced online.

Approximately 15,000 police and military personnel were deployed in case clashes broke out between Ahok supporters and opponents.

Purnama denied wrongdoing, though he apologised for comments he made previous year criticising his opponents' use of the Koran in political campaigning ahead of an election for governor of Jakarta, the country's capital.

He will hand over to Baswedan in October.

But there is a chance Purnama could escape jail after prosecutors last month recommended he be punished with only two years probation, with a possible one-year jail term if he commits a crime during that period.

"This case is not about Ahok", says Andreas Harsono, a Jakarta-based researcher for Human Rights Watch.

The legislation was rarely used during the 32-year rule of strongman Suharto, but in recent years it has been exploited to persecute minorities, rights groups say.

Jakarta's Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, arrives at a courtroom for his verdict and sentence in his blasphemy trial in Jakarta today. Although Indonesia officially recognizes six religions - Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism - there are concerns of rising influence of hardline Islamist groups.

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