Ahok Verdict: Jakarta Governor Sentenced to Two Years in Jail for Blasphemy
Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the outgoing governor of Indonesian capital Jakarta, has been sentenced to two years in prison for blasphemy and inciting violence.
The governor, also known as Ahok, is an ethnic Chinese and Christian. The case was seen as a test of Indonesia‘s religious tolerance.
Ahok was accused of insulting Islam by referring to a verse in the Koran during a campaign speech.
He has denied blasphemy and plans to appeal. He was taken into custody after the verdict was read out.
His deputy Djarot Saiful Hidayat will take over his duties until his term ends in October.
The sentence is harsher than most observers had expected – prosecutors had called for a suspended one-year sentence.
Ahok was “found to have legitimately and convincingly conducted a criminal act of blasphemy, and because of that we have imposed two years of imprisonment,” the judge told the court.
He was accused of blasphemy for comments he made during a pre-election speech in September 2016.
Ahok 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.
The governor’s remarks, which were widely shared in an edited video, sparked outrage among religious hardliners.
They staged regular large rallies calling for him to face trial.
Throughout the trial, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama denied wrongdoing, but did apologize for his comments nonetheless.
Ahead of the verdict, protesters for and against Ahok had gathered outside the court demanding respectively his acquittal or a long prison sentence.
Disappointed with the eventual verdict, some protesters demanded Ahok to be hanged.
Around 15,000 security personnel from the police and military are providing security at the scene, with riot police and armored vehicles separating the rival groups.
Ahok became governor after his predecessor, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, was elected president in 2014.
As an ethnic Chinese Indonesian and Christian Ahok is a double minority, and was Jakarta’s first non-Muslim governor for 50 years.
His political success was also seen as a significant development given the violent anti-Chinese riots that occurred in the city in 1998.
Before the blasphemy allegations, Ahok had been widely hailed as a straight-talking politician with a strong anti-corruption stance.
However, the controversy overshadowed scheduled elections last month.
Despite Ahok’s enduring popularity with many in Jakarta for his efforts to improve living standards, he lost to conservative Muslim candidate Anies Rasyid Baswedan.
Indonesia is the world’s most-populous Muslim country. About 85% of Indonesia’s population are Muslim, but the country officially respects six religions.