Published: Wed, May 10, 2017
Markets | By Terence Owen

Jakarta's Christian Governor Sentenced To 2 Years For Blasphemy


The outgoing governor of Jakarta has been sentenced to two years in prison for blasphemy and inciting violence. About 85% of its population are Muslim, but the country officially respects six religions.

Ahok was detained immediately after the verdict and taken to the Cipinang detention center in East Jakarta, local media reported.

At the court, supporters of the governor wept and hugged each other amid shouts of jubilation from members of conservative Islamic groups.

Purnama lost a re-election bid in last month's gubernatorial election to a Muslim candidate, Anies Baswedan.

The prosecutors last month urged judges to hand Purnama two years of probation, with a possible one-year jail term if he committed a crime during that period.

Ahok, Jakarta's second Christian governor after Henk Ngantung (1964-1965), was convicted of blasphemy by the North Jakarta District Court and sentenced to two years in prison.

Ahok, who pushed through several major infrastructure projects and streamlined Jakarta's bureaucracy, had been due to step down from the post in October.

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Purnama was "found to have legitimately and convincingly conducted a criminal act of blasphemy, and because of that we have imposed two years of imprisonment", head judge Dwiarso Budi Santiarto told the court.

Benedict Rogers added: "Indonesia's blasphemy laws have been abused for too long, so we call on President Joko Widodo to review the blasphemy laws and amend or repeal them to prevent future injustices".

At least several thousand white-robed protesters marched after Friday prayers at Istiqlal Mosque in central Jakarta until reaching the nearby Supreme Court building. "But, in the long-term investors will most likely take note of how the Jakarta court came to its decision under massive public pressure", Reza said.

The controversy began in September when Purnama, known for his outspoken style, outraged Muslims when he controversially quoted a passage from the Koran during his re-election campaign. He insinuated that his opponents had used a Quranic verse to trick people into voting against him.

Ahok was charged with blasphemy after he said that clerics were misleading voters by telling them that Muslims were not allowed to vote for a Christian. An incorrectly subtitled video of his comments later went viral, helping spark huge demonstrations that ultimately resulted in him being brought to trial.

Recent years have seen large anti-LGBT protests in Jakarta in early 2016, a push to criminalize homosexual sex and passionate reactions to allegations of blasphemy.

"This is bad news for Indonesian minorities", he said.

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