Indonesia Court Finds Governor Ahok Guilty Of Blasphemy Against Islam

JAKARTA: Jakarta’s Christian governor was jailed for two years on Tuesday (May 9) after being found guilty of blasphemy, in a shock decision that has stoked concerns over rising religious intolerance in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation.

Islamic hardliners outside the Jakarta court cheered and shouted “God is greatest!” as news came through that Basuki Tjahaja Purnama was to be sent to prison, a surprisingly harsh punishment after prosecutors recommended only probation.

Ahok has been taken to Cipinang prison in east Jakarta after the court ruling, one of his lawyers said.

Purnama looked calm when the verdict was announced and said he would appeal, as some of his supporters in court burst into tears. He was then taken to Cipinang prison in east Jakarta after the court ruling, one of his lawyers said.

The governor was hauled into court last year to face trial on charges of insulting Islam while campaigning for re-election, in a case critics said was politically motivated.

The trial came after a series of major protests in the capital against the leader, known by his nickname Ahok, that drew hundreds of thousands onto the streets.

Blasphemy carries a maximum jail term of five years in Indonesia but the verdict was a surprise as judges in Indonesia typically follow the recommendation of prosecutors in criminal cases.

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.

The controversy began in September when Purnama, known for his outspoken style, offended Muslims after he quoted a passage from the Koran during his re-election campaign.

He insinuated that his opponents had used a Koranic verse to trick people into voting against him.

His once unassailable opinion poll lead shrank amid the controversy and he lost the race to lead Jakarta last month to a Muslim challenger, a result that fuelled fears Indonesia’s moderate brand of Islam is coming under threat from increasingly influential radicals.

The five-judge panel at the Jakarta court found Purnama guilty of blasphemy after a months-long trial.

Announcing the verdict, presiding judge Dwiarso Budi Santiarto said Purnama was “convincingly guilty of committing blasphemy and is sentenced to two years in prison” and ordered him to be detained.

Another judge, Abdul Rosyad, said reasons for the stiff sentence included that “the defendant didn’t feel guilt, the defendant’s act has caused anxiety and hurt Muslims”.