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Christian Governor in Indonesia Found Guilty of Blasphemy Against Islam, Sentenced to 2 Years in Prison

Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja
Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja
JAKARTA, Indonesia — An Indonesian court found the Christian governor of Jakarta guilty of blasphemy against Islam on Tuesday, sentencing him to two years in prison in a case widely seen as a test of religious tolerance and free speech.

The governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, was defeated last month in an election in which the blasphemy case, and religion, became a major issue.

Blasphemy is a crime in Indonesia, a secular democracy with the world’s largest Muslim population.

The sentence was harsher than what prosecutors had asked for. They had recommended a sentence of two years’ probation on a lesser charge, which would have spared Mr. Basuki prison time.

Mr. Basuki told reporters that he would appeal the ruling.

Mr. Basuki became governor of Jakarta, the capital, in 2014 when his predecessor, Joko Widodo, became president. Mr. Basuki, known as Ahok, was only the city’s second non-Muslim governor and had hoped to become its first directly elected non-Muslim leader.

He had been leading in the polls last year, but in September his campaign faltered when he tried to address attacks from Muslim hard-liners who argued that the Quran forbade Muslims from voting for a non-Muslim. Mr. Basuki said those making that argument were misleading Muslims, a statement that was interpreted by some as insulting the Quran.

Muslim groups organized mass rallies against him, demanding that he be jailed for blasphemy.

His defeat last month was seen as a sign of the increasing power of Muslim conservatives, who have pressed for the adoption of Islamic law, or Shariah, throughout the archipelago.

Indonesia has more than 190 million Muslims and smaller numbers of Christians, Hindus and Buddhists among its population of 250 million.

Source: The New York Times, Joe Cochrane, May 9, 2017

Ahok Found Guilty of Blasphemy, Sentenced to Two Years in Prison

Jakarta. The North Jakarta District Court found incumbent Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama guilty of blasphemy and sentenced him to two years in prison on Tuesday morning (09/05).

A team of judges, led by Dwiarso Budi Santiarto, announced the court's verdict of the highly divisive, months-long blasphemy hearing at a converted auditorium at the Agriculture Ministry's headquarters in Pasar Minggu, South Jakarta.

The judges rejected Ahok's defense, saying the governor's conduct was in no way relative to national unity.

Ahok, whose term as the capital's governor is set to conclude in October, said he will soon appeal the court's findings.

"How will you respond?" Judge Dwiarso asked the governor and his legal counsel after reading the court's verdict.

"We will appeal," Ahok said.

Meanwhile, state prosecutor Ali Mukartono said he respects the court's verdict, but will prepare for the defense's impending appeal.

"We honor the verdict from the judges. We will determine our stance according to the law," Ali said.

Judge Dwiarso instructed Ahok to file his appeal with the court’s registrar.

"Although you have appealed, you still have to register with the court and sign the certificate [of appeal]. The court is hereby concluded and closed," Dwiarso said.

Ahok's blasphemy trial has become a litmus test for tolerance in the diverse country.

Prosecutors earlier in December indicted Ahok on alternative charges of blasphemy and hate speech, which respectively carry a maximum penalty of five and four years of imprisonment.

However, North Jakarta District Court prosecutors last month demanded two years probation with a possible one-year jail term for Ahok, downgrading the charge against him, who had been facing blasphemy charges since November last year.

Some analysts have said that Ahok's political rivals, namely former education minister Anies Baswedan, have used the embattled governor's blasphemy case as political fodder to drive public sentiment against the ethnic Chinese and Christian governor. On April 19, Anies bested Ahok in Jakarta's gubernatorial run-off election, and is set to take office in October.

Ahok was immediately taken into custody after the passing of the court's verdict.

Source: The Jakarta Globe, Anselmus Bata & Bayu Marhaenjati, May 9, 2017

‘Ahok’s verdict reflects validity of MUI opinion’

The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) has asked people to respect the verdict in Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama’s blasphemy case.

“The MUI appreciates and respects the verdict,” MUI deputy head Zainut Tauhid Saadi said Tuesday, as quoted by Antara news agency, referring to the North Jakarta District Court’s decision to sentence Ahok to two years’ imprisonment after being found guilty in the case.

He said the verdict reflected the judges’ appreciation toward the council’s opinion on the case. He added that the verdict also showed the validity of the MUI’s opinion, which served as a reference in deciding the legal steps in Ahok’s case.

The MUI delivered its opinion that the governor had insulted Islam in his speech in the Thousand Islands in September last year, in which he told residents to not be "deceived" by people using Quranic verses to influence decisions. The judges quoted considerations from MUI ulemas in the verdict.

Zainut further said the council had expressed its gratitude to leaders of Islamic organizations, ulemas and other Islamic figures that helped guide the legal process in relation to Ahok’s case. He added that the MUI praised Islamic figures who prioritized the spirit of brotherhood and unity in guiding the process.

Rallies were conducted in front of the building where the case hearings were being held since the beginning of Ahok’s trial in December, coordinated by a group of conservative and hard-line Muslims grouped under the Indonesian Ulema Council’s Fatwa National Movement to Safeguard the MUI’s Fatwa.

Source: The Jakarta Post, May 9, 2017

Respect Ahok's verdict, Jokowi says

Indonesia's President Joko Widodo
Indonesia's President Joko Widodo
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has called on the public to respect the North Jakarta District Court's ruling that handed down a two-year imprisonment sentence to Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama for blasphemy.

"All parties shall respect the legal process, including the verdict, which was just read out by the panel of judges, as well as Ahok's move to file an appeal. Most importantly, we all believe in legal mechanisms to settle problems," Jokowi said on the sidelines of his visit to Jayapura, Papua, on Tuesday.

"The government cannot interfere with the legal process," the President added.

Jokowi said he had received reports from Home Minister Tjahjo Kumolo on the matter while adding that he would discuss it in detail after he returned to Jakarta.

Ahok was initially charged under Article 156a of the Criminal Code (KUHP) on blasphemy and Article 156 of the KUHP on defaming clergymen. Prosecutors later dropped the blasphemy charge and demanded that Ahok be sentenced to two years’ probation and one year in prison if he reoffended.

However, the judges ignored the prosecutors and said Ahok was guilty of blasphemy, hence sentencing him to two years in prison.

Source: Jakarta Post, may 9, 2017

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