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Jakarta Governor Given 2-Year Sentence for Blasphemy


Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, center, is escorted by prosecutors as enters the court room for his sentencing hearing in Jakarta, Indonesia, May 9, 2017.

Jakarta’s Chinese-Christian Governor has been sentenced to two years in prison after being found guilty of blasphemy, in a case seen as a test of Indonesia’s religious tolerance.

The sentence, which is more than prosecutors sought, comes less than a month after he lost his election bid to stay in his position.

“The defendant Basuki Tjahaya Purnama, alias Ahok, proven to be legitimate and convincingly guilty of committing a criminal act of blasphemy, and imprisonment for two years,” said the judge.

The prosecutor last month called for the blasphemy counts to be dropped in exchange for a lesser charge of “spreading hate”, but the judges Tuesday appeared to have ignored that recommendation.

Ahok was put on trial in December over accusations that he insulted Islam while campaigning on one of the islands near the capital of Jakarta. Ahok quoted a verse in the Quran to prove to his supporters that there were no restrictions on Muslims voting for non-Muslim politicians. His statement was edited and widely spread in social media, triggering demonstrations and even threats against him during the local election campaign.

“We will appeal,” said Ahok shortly after the verdict. He was also immediately rushed out of the court room, but it is not known whether he was directly detained or not.

In the verdict, the judges also stated that the case has nothing to do with the local election. “This case is purely criminal, has nothing to do with the elections,” said the panel of judges chaired by Dwiarso Budisantiarto.

Although 87 percent of Indonesians are Muslim, its government is formally secular and its constitution protects six religions, giving no special status to Islam.

Anies Baswedan, a university rector and former Minister of Education and Culture, handily beat Ahok, who became acting governor after his boss, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, won the 2014 presidential election.

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