Jakarta Governor found guilty of blasphemy, sent to 2 years' jail

Posted May 10, 2017

The punishment meted out to him is harsher than what the prosecution proposed, but is less than the maximum punishment of up to five years in prison as stipulated in the country's legislation.

Indonesia, 90 percent of whose 255 million people are Muslim, has a long tradition of pluralistic values and is home to substantial populations of Christians, Muslims and Buddhists.

The guilty verdict didn't appear to dent Ahok's popularity among many - he was apparently a selfie star with Cipinang Prison guards, some of them wearing Muslim headscarves.

"I ask that all parties respect the legal process and the verdict that was read by the panel of judges, including respecting steps taken by Basuki Tjahaja Purnama to appeal", Widodo said during a trip to the eastern province of Papua.

According to Reuters, judge Dwiarso Budi Santiarto told the south Jakarta court that Ahok was "found to have legitimately and convincingly conducted a criminal act of blasphemy".

Hardline Islamist groups initiated the process, accusing Ahok of insulting the Quran during his losing reelection bid a year ago and called for him to be arrested and tried.

As judges at the Jakarta court started recapping the evidence presented in the trial ahead of the verdict, hundreds of demonstrators wearing white Muslim skullcaps protested against Purnama outside the building Tuesday.

Outside the court supporters of Governor Ahok broke down in tears when they heard the verdict.

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It was not immediately clear if Zuma would appeal Thursday's ruling. "It is an abuse of court process", he said. The DA said it wanted the court to review and set aside Zuma's decision to dismiss Gordhan and Jonas.

"Today is one of the darkest days in Indonesia", he added.

Ahok and Djarot's term as governor and vice governor ends in October 2017.

Despite the trial, Purnama retained a loyal following in Jakarta, due to his determination to clean up the traffic-clogged and polluted city.

The verdict was met with shock among his supporters outside the court and some wept openly.

But Ahok supporter Adrian Sianturi said "this decision is the character assassination of a good governor, a clean politician who is rare in this country".

The charge related to a reference by Basuki Tjahaja Purnama - better known by his nickname Ahok - to a Quranic verse in his re-election campaign 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. An incorrectly subtitled video of his comments later went viral, helping spark huge demonstrations that ultimately resulted in him being brought to trial. "We want to see the blasphemer of Islam in jail". The legislation was rarely used during the 32-year rule of strongman Suharto, but in recent years has been exploited to persecute minorities, rights groups say.