Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Indonesia hard-liners call for jailing of Christian governor

Kenny Thornton | 10 May, 2017, 00:07

Mr Purnama, a Christian in Muslim-majority Indonesia, has denied blasphemy and plans to appeal.

Jakarta's Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, speaks to his lawyers after the guilty verdict in his blasphemy trial in Jakarta on May 9, 2017.

Earlier, the panel of judges found Ahok guilty of committing a religious blasphemy and issued a warrant to immediately arrest Ahok and sent him to the Cipinang detention center in east Jakarta. While lots of Islamic groups called for the maximum penalty of five years, few groups think the court verdict was too harsh and Ahok should be acquitted.

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

A man angrily addressing the crowd through a megaphone said, "Brothers and sisters, justice has died in this country". However, there was no immediate sign of any violence after the verdict.

He was defeated by former Indonesian education and culture minister Anies Baswedan, a Muslim, after a campaign riven by religious tensions.

The trial came after a series of major protests against the capital's leader that drew hundreds of thousands onto the streets.

Many here believe the case against him is politically motivated.

"Here we have witnessed that the judge has become a representative of God, that the judge has upheld justice", said Syamsu Hilal, a member of an anti-blasphemy group who reported Ahok to police a year ago.

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AFP reported that Judge Abdul Rosyad contended "the defendant didn't feel guilt", and that "the defendant's act has caused anxiety and hurt to Muslims".

The sentence was also welcomed by the youth arm of Muhammadiyah, Indonesia's second-largest mainstream Muslim organisation.

The verdict, say critics, has also given a quasi-legal endorsement to a rigid interpretation of the Koran that could encourage the marginalisation of Indonesia's religious minorities. It was a stunning blow to a politician who has won praise for his clean and competent governance.

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.

Indonesians are divided between shock and jubilation after Jakarta's governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama was sentenced to two years prison for blaspheming the Quran.

He said Ahok's comments during the election campaign had degraded and insulted Islam.

"GNPF MUI (The National Movement to Safeguard the Indonesian Ulema Council's Fatwa - the organizing body behind the anti-Ahok protests) will not hold further protests relating to Ahok's blasphemy case", said GNPF MUI vice chairman Zaitun Rasmin, as quoted by Detik today.

"We respect the decision but we can't accept it".

The United Nations' Bangkok Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in a tweet said: "We are concerned by jail sentence for Jakarta governor for alleged blasphemy against Islam".

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