Jakarta governor Ahok found guilty of blasphemy

Jakarta governor Ahok found guilty of blasphemy

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The outgoing governor of Jakarta has been sentenced to two years in prison for blasphemy and inciting violence.
Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, is an ethnic Chinese and Christian. The case was seen as a test of Indonesia’s religious tolerance.He was accused of insulting Islam by referring to a verse in the Koran during a campaign speech.
Mr Purnama has denied blasphemy and plans to appeal. He was taken into custody after the verdict was read out.
His deputy Djarot Saiful Hidayat will take over his duties until his term ends in October.
The sentence is harsher than most observers had expected – prosecutors had called for a suspended one-year sentence.
The governor was “found to have legitimately and convincingly conducted a criminal act of blasphemy, and because of that we have imposed two years of imprisonment,” the judge told the court.
Riot police outside court
Mr Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, was accused of blasphemy for comments he made during a pre-election speech last September.
He implied that Islamic leaders were trying to trick voters by using a verse in the Koran to argue that Muslims should not vote for a non-Muslim leader.
His remarks, which were widely shared in an edited video, sparked outrage among religious hardliners.
Image copyright EPA
They staged regular large rallies calling for him to face trial.
Throughout the trial, Mr Purnama denied wrongdoing, but did apologise for his comments nonetheless.
Ahead of the verdict, protesters for and against Mr Purnama had gathered outside the court demanding respectively his acquittal or a long prison sentence.
Disappointed with the eventual verdict, some protesters demanded the outgoing governor to be hanged.
Around 15,000 security personnel from the police and military are providing security at the scene, with riot police and armoured vehicles separating the rival groups.
Outside the court supporters of governor Ahok broke down in tears when they heard the verdict. Some hugged each other.
Andi, a devoted Muslim, said she felt heartbroken. “He was such a good man and great leader… He didn’t care what religion people were. Now he has been framed,” she said.
Many here believe the case against him is politically motivated.
But a short distance away, the atmosphere among the governor’s critics – a coalition of Islamic groups- was one of anger.
“The sentence is too light, he should have got the maximum of five years, or better still be hung,” said Solihin.
Men around him then threw their fists in the air and cried out that God would hand out justice.
Riot police closed ranks to make sure both sides did not meet.
The battle is far from over. Governor Ahok will appeal the decision. Islamic groups who oppose him say they will push for a harsher sentence.
Mr Purnama became governor after his predecessor, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, was elected president in 2014.
As an ethnic Chinese Indonesian and Christian he is a double minority, and was Jakarta’s first non-Muslim governor for 50 years.
His political success was also seen as a significant development given the violent anti-hinese riots that occurred in the city in 1998.
Before the blasphemy allegations, he had been widely hailed as a straight-talking politician with a strong anti-corruption stance.
But the controversy overshadowed scheduled elections last month.
Despite his enduring popularity with many in Jakarta for his efforts to improve living standards, he lost to conservative Muslim candidate Anies Rasyid Baswedan.
Indonesia is the world’s most-populous Muslim country. About 85% of its population are Muslim, but the country officially respects six religions. – BBC

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