Jakarta’s Christian governor has been jailed for two years for blasphemy in a trial that has been seen as a test of religious tolerance in Indonesia.The court also ordered for the sentence to be carried out immediately even though the politician had indicated his wish to appeal the court’s decision. The panel of judges led by judge Dwiarso Budi Santiarto ignored the prosecution’s sentence demand of two years’ probation for insulting Muslim leaders and instead sentenced Ahok to two years in prison for blasphemy.
Mr Tommy Sihotang, who is (another) defence lawyer on Basuki’s team, said he will file a challenge to the court’s decision to detain his client. “Why did they have to decide to detain him? Is there any worry Ahok would flee? Why would he? Remember, he is still the governor,” he told reporters.
Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as Ahok, was forced to stand trial for allegedly insulting Islam while campaigning for re-election in a case critics said was politically motivated.The court case against Basuki involves a speech to constituents last September, when he was heard referring to a verse in the Quran while telling them that they should not be misled by opponents urging Muslims to reject a non-Muslim leader. Basuki is a Christian.
A key consideration of the case was whether the governor’s comments was blasphemous against Islam, said the five-member judging panel led by presiding judge Dwiarso Budi Santiarto.During the reading of the verdict, the judges said the evidence proved that Basuki had deliberately committed blasphemy and hence was guilty of the charge.
The trial came after a series of major protests against Ahok in the capital of the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country that drew hundreds of thousands onto the streets.
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 of Indonesia’s moderate brand of Islam coming under threat from increasingly influential radicals.
The capital was on edge just before the judges delivered the verdict inside an auditorium at the Ministry of Agriculture in South Jakarta, where the hearing was held. Outside, thousands of police officers stood guard, and deployed concertina wire barricades to prevent an outbreak of violence between Basuki supporters and hardline Muslim protesters, who had gathered near the ministry complex.
An estimated 5,000 supporters of Basuki turned up to rally behind the Christian politician, even putting up a display on the road made up of red and white roses that said “#SAVEAHOK”.But there were also about 5,000 others at the same venue staging a protest to call for the courts to jail Basuki for insulting Islam.
Using a megaphone, one protester praised God after the North Jakarta District Court announced the verdict. He said a close eye should be kept on the overall legal process to make sure that Ahok served his prison sentence.
“Allahu Akbar [God is great]. We should not be satisfied with this verdict but make sure that Ahok really serves his sentence,” the man continued.
After the hearing ended at 10:50 a.m., the situation in the area remained tense, with members of Islamic organizations checking the press cards of journalists covering the event.